What the ‘Amnesty Memo’ Means

by Rosemary Jenks

Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are facing a dilemma: Although they publicly bemoan the fact that Republicans won’t help them pass an unpopular amnesty . . . er, comprehensive immigration-reform bill, they don’t want to force vulnerable Democrats to vote on amnesty this close to the November elections — especially not with unemployment at 9.5 percent.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) may have uncovered the answer to their dilemma yesterday: an internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services memo (reported here on NRO) that outlines steps the Obama administration can take “in the absence of Comprehensive Immigration Reform” — that is, lawfully enacted amnesty — to “reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization.”

The four authors of the memo, titled “Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” are political appointees USCIS chief of policy and strategy Denise Vanison (a former immigration attorney and partner at Patton Boggs) and USCIS chief counsel Roxana Bacon (former general counsel for the American Immigration Lawyers Association), and two career employees of USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas, another Obama appointee.

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress — and only Congress — the authority to decide federal immigration law, but the Obama administration has come up with an extensive list of ways to ensure that a majority of the illegal aliens in the United States are allowed to remain here.

Here are just three examples of the outrageous proposals in the memo:

— USCIS could grant “parole-in-place,” which comes with a work permit and the ability to obtain a green card, to certain classes of aliens who entered the country illegally. Such classes would include those who entered as minors and those who “have lived for many years in the U.S.” A nice reward for those who have successfully violated the law for the longest period of time.

— For those who overstay their visas, the memo recommends granting “deferred action,” which means that deportation is deferred indefinitely and the illegal alien can apply for a work permit. The memo suggests two particular categories of illegal aliens for deferred action: those who might benefit if Congress were to pass the DREAM Act amnesty (of which there are 2.1 million, according to the Migration Policy Institute) and those “who have resided in the U.S. since 1996 (or as of a different date designed to move forward the Registry provision now limited to entries before January 1, 1972).” The “Registry provision” referred to is an actual federal law, not that it matters to the memo’s authors.

— To make sure no illegal alien is left behind, the memo suggests that DHS could simply stop issuing “Notices to Appear” (the document that starts the removal process for illegal aliens) unless the alien has a “significant negative immigration or criminal history.” Apparently, violating immigration law once or twice is acceptable. These folks wouldn’t be able to apply for a work permit, but since the Obama administration isn’t conducting worksite enforcement against illegal aliens much anymore, that shouldn’t matter.

No wonder Reid, Pelosi, and Obama seem content to avoid a legislative battle over immigration; the Department of Homeland Security is hard at work on ways to implement its own amnesty.