Don’t wait for President Obama to act on immigration reform

by Cesar Vargas | January 17, 2013

Over the past few months, bipartisan meetings of Congressional legislators have been taking place behind closed doors on immigration. This is highly unusual when compared to other hot-button issues like taxes and gun control, which are both currently high-profile debates. Despite the productive talks and alliances, Democrats and Republicans are still calling on President Obama to take leadership on immigration. The president certainly has a role but Congress legislates, however; not the president.

The President has a mixed record on immigration reform that has taken far longer than he initially said it would. This situations requires Congress to take action on immigration legislation without the president to modernize the country’s immigration system.

In the House, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Godlatte (R-Va.), Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), even former Republican Vice President nominee Paul Ryan have shown an eagerness on tackling immigration reform. In the Senate, the “gang of eight” and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have been meeting to create a compromise. While it is easier said than done, Senate and House should not forget that they can agree and pass a bill in their respective houses and send a bill to the president.

During the “fiscal cliff”, the country saw productive work from experienced current and former legislators like Joe Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as they hammered out a compromised that at least got beyond the “cliff.”

So why is Congress waiting for President Obama?

Over the weekend, Erika Andiola, one of the most nationally prominent and recognizable immigration activists in the country, had to fight the deportation of her mother and older brother. Fortunately, Erika quickly activated a national network to bring her family home. Unfortunately, most undocumented immigrants do not have this network.

In the 2012 fiscal year that ended September 30, an unprecedented 409,849 people were deported. This is what the Obama Administration’s immigration enforcement record looks like: a record number of deportations of hardworking parents and siblings who are victims of an antiquated immigration system.

Of course, President Obama does not personally order the detainment of non-criminal undocumented immigrants, like Erika’s elderly mother. And I am certain President Obama feels the pain of U.S. Citizen parents, children, and workers who are victims of rogue agents in Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) that ignore DHS policy to go after “worst of the worst.” But he does have the power to oversee ICE and reject suspected quotas the Department of Homeland Security operates under.

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