Latino Democrat puts pressure on Obama to provide relief for some immigrants
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) on Monday launched an online petition aimed at the White House, plugging an initiative that would make it easier for some undocumented immigrants to gain legal status.
Under current policy, anyone who is known to be in the U.S. illegally for more than 180 days and agrees to voluntarily leave the country before entering deportation proceedings is barred from reentering for three to ten years. That includes many immigrants who qualify for visas because they have family members who are U.S. citizens or residents, but who don’t apply for them because they would have to leave the country in order to do so. The petition by Menendez asks President Obama to allow those individuals to request a waiver from the bar from within the United States.
“Our effort in launching [the petition] is to try to convince the administration that there is a groundswell of support for this type of administrative relief,” Menendez told Univision News. “And we believe that this effort is important because we cannot achieve a legislative victory in this environment, in this Congress.”
The senator says the change would allow tens of thousands - and potentially hundreds of thousands - to determine whether they qualify for the waiver, without risking separation from their families.
”This is a way of ensuring an individual: You will apply here domestically, you will get a determination whether you qualify, and once you get that qualification, then you have the ability to go abroad, get your visa, and come back to the United States,” Menendez said.
The Obama administration took action to address the issue of family separation earlier this year when it announced a review of new and pending immigration cases using set discretionary guidelines to prioritize the deportations of immigrants with criminal records or no ties to the U.S. The policy, however, does not grant administrative relief to any particular group and is applied on a case-by-case basis by field agents who are currently undergoing training.
At the same time, the administration has deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants - about 400,000 a year - since the beginning of Obama’s presidency, and has vowed to continue deportations at that rate.
The administration declined Univision News’ request for a comment on Menendez’s petition on Monday.