The Ripple Effects of Delayed Immigration Reform

Sen. Chuck Schumer called the Republican party's bluff on Sunday, suggesting that immigration reform could be passed this year and go into effect after the president's term.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer called the Republican party's bluff on Sunday, suggesting that immigration reform could be passed this year and go into effect after President Obama's term. Last week, House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans didn't trust Obama to enforce any laws they passed, which would make it difficult for get the party to pass reform. So Schumer suggested they just wait for the next president to enforce it. As he told Meet the Press, "You don’t trust Obama? Enact the law now, but put it into effect in 2017, and we can get something real done for America." Schumer might think that's a clever compromise, but the delay still creates a ripple effect for many immigrants. 

As Politico explained, Schumer's delay plan would mean that undocumented immigrants wouldn't be legalized until 2017, but the White House would continue to focus on deporting those who've committed crimes or individuals who wouldn't qualify for citizenship under reform either way. House Republicans are against that. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said that "would totally eliminate the president’s incentive to enforce immigration law for the remainder of his term.” As The New York Times noted, the rest of the party is still split, but leaning against reform as pressure builds from Tea Party groups, the conservative Heritage Foundation, and others. One group, ForAmerica, called Boehner's office 5,500 times.

And while this delay will continue to stir things up among Republicans and Congress, it could also cause some problems for the president and his base. Delays in immigration reform, and the legalization of millions of residents, bring to the forefront the administration's deportation policies, according to The Wall Street Journal. Whether immigration reform is delayed until 2017 or indefinitely, the problems created in its absence will continue.

Obama has deported more people than any other president, something the administration likes to point out. This year immigration rights groups are planning to hold a "two million too many" rally to mark the administration's two millionth deportation. Advocates are calling on Obama to cut down on deportations, while the White House argues that only legislation can help the country's millions of undocumented immigrants. "If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so," Obama said in November.

Meanwhile, the little Obama has done to stall deportations has angered another, though smaller and less vocal, group of people. The New York Times interviewed several American citizens who've been unable to get visas for foreign family members, such as spouses and children. The processing time has stretched from five to 15 months due to an Obama program that diverts resources to give "deportation deferrals to young undocumented immigrants," according to Citizenship and Immigration Services.

With immigration rights activists calling on the president to expand that deferral program it might take more resources away from the program to grant visas for relatives, people who feel they've been penalized for following the law. "You end up seeing a steep decline in approvals for people like me who followed the law,” Forrest Nabors, a professor filing for his wife, said of the deferral program. "You feel helpless. You feel as if you did things the right way and you are penalized for it," Mukul Varma, a software consultant filing for his wife, told the Times. The longer the immigration reform is put off, the more it affects both undocumented and would-be immigrants, as well as the bases of the both the Republicans and the Democrats.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.