Criticism for waiver that allows US citizens' relatives to get green cards faster

Dozens of immigration activists gathered today at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Los Angeles to protest the federal deportation program
Dozens of immigration activists gathered today at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Los Angeles to protest the federal deportation program "Secure Communities." (August 15, 2011)
Corey Moore/KPCC

A group that lobbies for tighter immigration policies is criticizing an Obama administration move that would allow a million undocumented immigrants with US citizen relatives to apply for legal residence in this country.  

Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, says President Obama should have gotten Congressional approval first.

“Should we be excusing people who broke the law? Are the laws that we have really working the way we want them to?" she asks. "And if so—or if not—who gets to change them? And how does that happen?”  

Vaughan says she worries that allowing undocumented family members of US citizens to stay here while they apply for green cards will encourage more illegal immigration.  

She also criticized the president’s recent decision to postpone the deportation of young undocumented immigrants without criminal records, through a policy known as the Deferred Action program.

“They’re definitely sending a signal that the only people who have to worry about any kind of immigration law enforcemen are people who’ve committed very serious crimes," Vaughan says. “What this does, in my view, is it increases the attraction of coming here illegally. Nobody needs to bother following the rules anymore—if you do, you’re a chump. It’s much easier to just come here illegally and pretty much, as long as you don’t commit a felony, you’re home free. And they’ll organize a system to enable you to eventually get legal status.”

At the same time, there’s growing support for the “provisional waiver” policy that would help undocumented immigrants get green cards through immediate family members who are citizens while decreasing the amount of time some immigrants wait to become documented.  Undocumented spouses or children sometimes wait years to reunite legally with their families. They often stay in the US illegally for a long time, or return to their countries while they wait for processing.
“I think we’re seeing a lot of relief," says Alvaro Huerta, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles. "We’re seeing that a lot of people are excited that they will have the possibility of applying for residency and will actually be able to stay with their family members while they do so. They still have to leave the country at some point, so they will be separated, but it will be a much shorter time.”

About one million undocumented immigrants could become legal U.S. residents as a result of this new policy.