Crisis highlights US immigration reform failure

Crisis highlights US immigration reform failureWASHINGTON: One year into congressional efforts to overhaul US immigration reform, the nation’s 11 million undocumented migrants are no closer to legal status, with a swelling humanitarian border crisis only highlighting the system’s dysfunction.

Reform efforts are dead in gridlocked Washington, and fingers of blame are pointing every which way.

Republican opponents of President Barack Obama say his administration has failed to seal the porous US-Mexico border.

Democrats accuse House Republicans of sabotaging the US Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed with great fanfare one year ago.

That first serious attempt at immigration reform since 1986 imposed a series of tough conditions, including a quasi-militarisation of the border and a boost in quotas for skilled-worker visas.

But Republicans who control the House of Representatives ultimately shelved the proposal, spooked at the thought of offending their conservative constituents by legalising millions of immigrants, especially after Hispanic-Americans voted for Obama in droves in 2008 and 2012.

Now, the steady increase of minors, illicitly smuggled from Central America and across Mexico into the United States, has further inflamed an already fiery debate.

Democrats have warned that lawmakers have until their August recess to work out a legislative solution, or the White House will begin to act on its own.

“We’re at the end of the line,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez, an architect of last year’s bill.

Caught in the middle of the row is House Speaker John Boehner, who has voiced his desire for an overhaul but has appeared straightjacketed by the conservative wing of his party.

“I hope that Speaker Boehner will speak up today,” said Senator Dick Durbin.

“And if he does not, the president will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration.”

Obama could suspend the deportations of thousands of undocumented migrants who can meet certain criteria.
He took a similar step in 2012, just before the presidential election, granting temporary residence permits to youths who arrived before their 16th birthday. He renewed the program, known as DACA, this year for two more years.
Parents of US-born children, or those receiving DACA relief, for example, could get temporary authorisation to stay this summer, according to Marc Rosenblum of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. -AFP