All weekend my inbox was flooded with press releases and emails from immigration organizations across the country praising the latest immigration policy proposal announcement from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Last Friday, USCIS filed a notice of intent to change current policy that requires undocumented spouses and sons and daughters of U.S. citizens facing 3 and 10 year bars to file waivers outside the U.S. and then allowing them to return to their families by showing that their U.S. citizen family member would face extreme hardship as a result of the separation.
Before you break out the leftover new year’s confetti, I would like to remind people that this is a proposal. I have read the Notice of Intent and the language is very provisional. An intention is not that same as an actual action and within the actual document it states, “USCIS is considering regulatory changes…” (emphasis mine). There will be a several-month period for the public to provide comments on the proposed change before it goes into effect. A consideration is a thought, not an actual change in practice. In my opinion, a consideration is the campaign promise of an incumbent president trying to gain the Latino vote.
This intention of considering a proposal to change policy is just the latest in a series of public relation attempts to improve Obama’s image among potential Latino voters. Obama’s Latina spokesperson Cecilia Munoz, recently promoted to the be director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Congressman Xavier Becerra (D – CA) made the rounds on the Sunday morning Spanish network news shows, citing the proposal as additional proof of Obama making changes to an immigration policy. Wouldn’t real change be a proposal to eliminate the bar for certain families altogether? According to an email from the White House, applicants would still need to go abroad to complete their legal immigration process. The time apart is promised to be shorter however. Unfortunately, so many of the immigration policy promises have fallen far from being implemented and Latinos are growing resentful.
A poll released by the Pew Hispanic Center right before the new year confirmed that 59% to 27%, Latinos of all legal statuses say they disapprove of how the administration is handling deportations. By many accounts, prosecutorial discretion is not being instituted and it’s not clear to me if and when the panel to review cases in deportation will begin. This week Leslie Hernandez, a mother of three, was facing deportation to Mexico. Following community pressure, not policy, her deportation has been halted and she is expected to be released from Federal custody. Charbel Chehoud, worked undercover for the New Jersey Police that led to the solving of several high-profile crimes including a murder. He is facing imminent deportation. According to the alleged existing policy following the Morton Memo of last summer, deporting the “dangerous” and “bad” immigrants is supposed to be the priority. Neither Leslie nor Charbel seem to fall under that negative label, casting doubt upon all the alleged changes enforcement procedures.
The new fall guy to blame for non-implementation of prosecutorial discretion is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents’ union, the National ICE Council, who allegedly is not allowing officers to participate in trainings on the reprioritization of deportations. Stuck in the midst of all of the announcements, press releases, and intentions are undocumented immigrants and their families, who try and make sense of how best to live their lives under familiar shadow statuses with new names.