What's next for immigration reform?

Published: Saturday, July 5 2014 5:45 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks about immigration reform, Monday, June 30, 2014, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.

Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — Some community leaders say it's high time that President Barack Obama called out the House of Representatives for its inaction on immigration reform.

Others blame Obama and say he may be overreaching his executive powers when he says he will do all he is authorized to do to fix the nation's immigration system on his own.

All agree, however, that the proper venue for comprehensive immigration reform is Congress.

After the Senate's passage of a comprehensive reform bill a year ago, the issue has stalled in the House. The likelihood that the House will take up the issue before the November election is slim.

That's fueling frustration nationwide, said Jason Mathis, executive director of Salt Lake City's Downtown Alliance.

"Millions of people across the county share President Obama's frustration with Congress's inability to do their job. Certainly that's true of Utah's business community, where we have been begging literally for years for Congress to fix what everyone agrees is a broken system," he said.

Obama's announcement this week was his strongest to date taking on the House for its failure to act, he said.

"My only condemnation of President Obama is, why haven't you been doing everything you can to improve the situation since you were elected in 2008?" Mathis said.

House Republicans say the issue is trust.

“There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws,” Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said in February. He has not budged from that position and takes issue with Obama's willingness to issue executive orders to enact changes.

The Republican leadership in the House also differs from the Senate in approach, rejecting “a single, massive piece of legislation that few have read and even fewer understand” in favor of a “step-by-step, common sense approach that starts with securing our country’s borders, enforcing our laws and implementing robust enforcement measures," states the Standards for Immigration Reform that Republicans in the House released at the beginning of the year.

Both sides are at an impasse and the fallout is being felt at the border and across the country.

Deferred Action

Alyssa Williams, immigration attorney for Catholic Community Services of Utah, said some of Obama's previous initiatives achieved through executive orders have made a difference for certain people seeking to normalize their status or at least put deportation actions on hold.

People are in the process of applying for renewal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Deferred action does not provide lawful status. It is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal actions against a person for a two-year period.

Under DACA, people who came to the United States as children and meet other guidelines may request consideration under the initiative. Those who obtain approval are also eligible to work.

While hundreds of thousands of people applied for the consideration the first few months it was offered, the applicant pool has shrunk considerably during the past year.

Some people can't afford the application fee, Williams said. Others have experienced difficulty putting together the required documentation.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics for the first quarter of the federal fiscal year (Oct. 1-Dec. 31), more than 7,300 people in Utah have applied for DACA since 2012. More than 6,300 were approved.

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