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THEY STILL HAVE THEIR DREAM: LAWSUIT AGAINST DREAMERS WILL GO NOWHERE

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King
As if the non-recognition by the governors of Arizona, Nebraska, Texas and Mississippi of Obama’s Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was not enough, a lawsuit filed by disgruntled ICE agents further reveals the misguided hate against a most vulnerable and sympathetic immigrant population in the US – young  people who entered the US before they turned 16, and who are not in a lawful status through no fault of their own.

The lawsuit, Crane v. Napolitano, has been filed by 10 ICE agents in a federal court in Texas who are being represented by Kris Kobach – the architect of the anti-immigrant state laws of Arizona and Alabama. It is being bank rolled by NumbersUSA, an anti-immigrant organization, which has been called a hate group. Even the head of the AFL-CIO has slammed the plaintiffs as not representing legitimate union grievances (as 9 out of the 10 plaintiffs belong to the ICE Union) but as “working with some of the most anti-immigrant forces in the country, forces that have long sowed division and destruction.”

The lawsuit alleges that the recent prosecutorial discretion policies enunciated in the Memo by ICE Director John Morton  and DACA command ICE officers to violate federal law. In essence, ICE officers, according to plaintiffs,  are required to remove non-citizens who are not here legally while DACA prohibits an officer from doing just that, which among other things, requires the individual to have entered the US under the age of 16;  been continuously residing in the US from June 15, 2007 until June 15, 2012, and was present on June 15, 2012;  is currently in school, has graduated from high school or obtained a GED or has been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces or the Coast Guard;  and is not above the age of 30. Also, the qualified individual should not have been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, or multiple misdemeanor offenses, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The lawsuit invokes provisions from the 1996 Immigration Act. The complaint alleges as follows:  “8 U.S.C. § 1225(a)(1) [INA § 235(a)(1)] requires that “an alien present in the United States who has not been admitted…shall be deemed for purposes of this chapter an applicant for admission.” This designation triggers 8 U.S.C. § 1225(a)(3) [INA § 235(a)(3)] which requires that all applicants for admission “shall be inspected by immigration officers.” This in turn triggers 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(2)(A)  [INA § 235(b)(2)(A)] which mandates that “if the examining immigration officer determines that an alien seeking admission is not clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted, the alien shall be detained for a proceeding under section 1229a of this title.” The proceedings under 8 U.S.C. § 1229a [INA § 240] are removal proceedings in the United States immigration courts.”

Deferred action is neither recent nor radical. Widows of US citizens have been granted this benefit. Battered immigrants  have also known its sheltering arms.  Never has the size of a vulnerable population been a valid reason to say no. Knowing this, the extension of such relief to DACA applicants is less a leap into the unknown justified by some wild, lawless ideology than a sober reaffirmation of an existing tool for remediation in prior emergencies. Moreover, many EWIs are also eligible for adjustment of status under special provisions of the law, but they are not routinely detained under INA § 235(b)(2)(A).  While they may be entitled to admission beyond a clear doubt, such a determination is not been made upon the mere filing of the adjustment application. Moreover, this argument is clearly not applicable to individuals who enter the US on a valid visa and overstay, which is the case with many DACA applicants.

Also, Kobach’s lawsuit conveniently omits to mention INA § 103(a)(1), which charges the DHS Secretary with the administration and enforcement of the Act, which in turn implies that the DHS can decide when to and when not to remove an alien. He also fails to mention INA 274A(h)(3)(B), which excludes from the definition of “unauthorized alien” any alien “authorized to be so employed . . . by the Attorney General.” After all, 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(14),  which authorizes the grant of employment authorization to one who has been granted deferred action, has been around for several decades. The only new thing about DACA is that the guidance memorandum set forth criteria for the grant of deferred action, and work authorization under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(14).Congress too has recognized “deferred action” in § 202(c)(2)(B)(viii) of the REAL ID Act as a status,  which can allow an alien to receive a driver’s license.  This stands in marked contrast to the stated refusal of the Republican gubernatorial quartet noted supra to allow issuance of state driver’s licenses. Texas Governor Perry apparently does not realize that current Texas law already allows deferred action beneficiaries who have an employment authorization document to get a one-year Texas license.

There is a direct conflict between these Governors and the provisions of the Real ID act that, as of January 1, 2013, will sanction issuance of state driver’s license to deferred action grantees, This has been brought out vividly in Nightmare in Arizona: Governor Brewer’s Nonsensical And Mean-Spirited Executive Order Against Dreamers, and is a classic example of conflict pre-emption that is constitutionally impermissible under Arizona v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2492, 183  L.Ed.2d  351 (2012). Whatever state executives may think, when confronted with the expressed intent of Congress in the Real ID Act, their opposition to deferred action having state driver’s licenses must give way. State law cannot “stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.” Hines v. Davidowitz,  312 U.S. 52, 67 (1941). We suggest that the enemies of Dream Act relief tread softly and with great care. Gary Endelman & Cynthia Lange, The Perils of Preemption: Immigration and the Federalist Paradox, 13 Bender’s Immigr. Bull. 1217 (Oct. 1, 2008).

We refer our readers to the excellent Immigration Impact blog on why Kobach and the plaintiffs will likely lose. One compelling argument that the blog makes is that the court will dismiss for lack of jurisdiction since a federal case cannot be made out of a difference of opinion between government employees and their superiors. The blog’s author Ben Winograd draws this apt analogy: “ICE agents hauling the head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) into court is like a law clerk suing a judge for writing a decision with which she disagrees—or Kobach’s own subordinates in Kansas seeking an injunction requiring him to perform his actual job as Kansas Secretary of State. It’s just not how the legal system works.”

We propose further suggestions why the law suit may have no merit. We now revive the argument that we made in The Tyranny of Priority Dates that the courts will most likely give deference to the administration’s interpretation of INA provisions in the event that it grants benefits, such as work authorization, through executive action. Indeed, in the recent past, another restrictionist group filed a similar law suit against an administrative measure, which failed. In Programmers Guild v. Chertoff,  08-cv-2666 (D.N.J. 2008), the Programmers Guild sued DHS challenging the regulation extending Optional Practical Training from 12 months to 29 months for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students. The plaintiffs in seeking a preliminary injunction argued that DHS had invented its own guest worker program without Congressional authorization. The court dismissed the suit for injunction on the ground that DHS was entitled to deference under Chevron USA, Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. 467 U.S. 837 (1984). Under the oft quoted Chevron doctrine, courts will pay deference to the regulatory interpretation of the agency charged with executing the laws of the United States when there is ambiguity in the statute. The courts will step in only when the agency’s interpretation is irrational or in error. Similarly, the Supreme Court in Nat’l Cable & Telecomm. Ass’n v. Brand X Internet Servs., 545 U.S. 967 (2005), while affirming Chevron, held that if there is an ambiguous statute requiring agency deference under Chevron,  the agency’s interpretation will also trump a judicial decision interpreting the same statute. The court in dismissing the Programmers Guild lawsuit discussed the rulings in Chevron and Brand X to uphold the DHS’s ability to extend the student F-1 OPT regulation. Programmers Guild appealed and the Third Circuit also dismissed the lawsuit based on the fact that the Plaintiffs did not have standing. Programmers Guild, Inc. v. Chertoff,  338 Fed. Appx. 239 (3rd Cir. 2009), petition for cert. filed, (U.S. Nov. 13, 2009) (No. 09-590). While the Third Circuit did not address Chevron or Brand X – there was no need to – it interestingly cited Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 580 (1978), which held that Congress is presumed to be aware of an administrative interpretation of a statute and to adopt that interpretation when it reenacts its statutes without change. Here, the F-1 practical training regulation was devoid of any reference to the displacement of domestic labor, and Congress chose not to enact any such reference, which is why the Programmers Guild lacked standing.

In the ICE agents’ case against DACA, the same arguments can be forcefully made. In the event that the court finds jurisdiction, a similar argument can be made that the DHS be given deference in interpreting INA § 103(a)(1), which would allow the DHS Secretary to set forth policies regarding the exercise of prosecutorial discretion as in the Morton Memo and under DACA. Surely, the “body of experience” and the “informed judgment” that DHS brings to the Dream Act provide its interpretations with  “ the power to persuade.” Skidmore  v. Swift  & Co., 323 U.S. 134, 140 (1944). As Justice Elena Kagan famously noted when she served as the Dean of the Harvard Law School, the increasingly vigorous resort to federal regulation as a tool for policy transformation by all Presidents since Ronald Reagan has made “the regulatory activities of the executive branch agencies more and more an extension of the President’s own policy and political agenda.” Elena Kagan, Presidential Administration, 114 Harv. L. Rev. 2245, 2246 (2001).  Kobach and his clients might profitably peruse Randolph J. May, Defining Deference Down: Independent Agencies and Chevron Deference, 58 Admin. L. Rev. 429 (2006) if they really want to know why they are wrong.  Writing for the Brand X majority, Justice Thomas noted that, in Chevron itself, the Supreme Court deferred to the reversal by the Reagan EPA in 1981 as to the meaning of “statutory source” in the 1977 Clean Air Act amendments. Id. at 440, n. 66.   If  Kobach does not know if the DHS has the power to act, or what the constitutional wellsprings of the DACA memoranda are, we suggest that the Supreme Court does. The very notion of Chevron-deference is “premised on the theory that a statute’s ambiguity constitutes an implicit delegation from Congress to the agency to fill in the statutory gap.” FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 529 US 120, 159 (2000).  That is precisely what the DHS has done. Moreover, INA § 274A(h)(3)(B) provides authority to the Executive Branch to grant employment authorization  to whomever it wants. Deferred action has also been around for decades, and Congress has been aware of this administrative benefit, which it recognized when enacting the Real ID Act. Until now, Chevron, and Brand X in particular, have been feared by the immigration bar and immigration advocates for its negative potential as a legitimization of government repression. Yet, it has a positive potential by enabling the Executive to expand individual rights and grant benefits sua sponte. We do not need to live in fear of Brand X. We can make it our own – at least in this law suit challenging DACA.

It is also worth mentioning that while the lawsuit may argue that there is no express Congressional authorization for the Obama Administration to implement such measures, the President may act within a “twilight zone” in which he may have concurrent authority with Congress. See Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 635 (1952) (Jackson, J., concurring). Unlike Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer, where the Supreme Court held that the President could not seize a steel mill to resolve a labor dispute without Congressional authorization, the Administration under through the Morton Memo and DACA is well acting within Congressional authorization. In his famous concurring opinion, Justice Jackson reminded us that, however meritorious, separation of powers itself was not without limit: “While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity.” Id. at 635. Nativist lawyers look in vain for explicit authority in the INA that supports DACA relief. They can stop searching:

Congress …may not have expressly delegated authority to…fill a particular gap. Yet,it can still be apparent from the agency’s generally conferred authority that Congress will expect the agency to speak with the force of law when it addresses ambiguity in the statute…even one about which Congress did not actually have an intent as to a particular result.   United States v. Mead, 533 U.S. 218, 229(2001)

Finally, one cannot separate the vitriol against DREAMers in states like Arizona and the law suit challenging DACA. They emanate from the same xenophobia against immigrants without being able to see that the deserving beneficiaries of DACA are out of status for no fault of their own, and even if one pinpoints the blame on their parents, the reason for such a huge undocumented population is because of a broken immigration system that does not provide sufficient avenues to legalize oneself. This law suit challenging DACA, along with the opposition to DACA by the Arizona and other states, essentially challenges the federal government’s authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion. We think this is a losing proposition. In the Arizona v. USA decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged the federal government’s role in exercising prosecutorial discretion, where Justice Kennedy writing for the majority in that decision noted, “A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials…Federal officials as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.”  Kobach wants the Dreamers kicked out; neither he nor his ICE agents get to make that call; it is up to DHS to decide when, or whether, to initiate such an enforcement campaign.  Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U.S. 821, 835 (1985).  The reason is not hard to figure out;   inherent in the exercise of discretion is the bedrock truth that there is simply “no law to apply.” Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 410(1971). The good sense and fundamental decency of the American people, guided by the continuing truth of the Constitution, will have to make due. It has served us pretty well so far.

From Madison to Morton: Can Prosecutorial Discretion Trump State Action in Arizona v. Usa?

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus Mehta

Warning against the danger of faction in his famous Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison sought to moderate the impact through the diffusion of power amongst the three branches of the federal government as well as between state and federal authority. This coming Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument over the most contentious provisions of Arizona SB 1070. It is perhaps no small exaggeration to say that the outcome of this case will determine if prosecutorial discretion as a tool of immigration enforcement can survive.In an age of finite resources, to govern is to choose. That is why ICE Director John Morton decided this past June 2011 to exercise prosecutorial discretion in removal cases involving non-citizens who demonstrate favorable factors, such as their length of presence in the US, the person’s ties to the community, including the presence of immediate relative who may be US citizens or permanent residents, the circumstances of the person’s entry into the US, particularly if he or she was brought in as a young child and whether the person is likely to be granted permanent residency in the future, to name a few. Mr. Morton in a separate policy memo also included the victims and witnesses of crime, including domestic violence, and those persons who were plaintiffs in non-frivolous lawsuits or otherwise engaged in action to protect their civil rights. Director Morton elected to concentrate on deporting national security concerns or those non-citizens with a serious criminal history. This was not the first time that those who were charged with enforcement of our immigration laws embraced the virtues of prosecutorial discretion. On November 17, 2000, then INS Commissioner Doris Meissner explained it this way:

Prosecutorial Discretion is the authority of an agency charged with enforcing a law to decide whether to enforce, or not to enforce, the law against someone. The INS, like other law enforcement agencies, has prosecutorial discretion and exercises it every day…The favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion means a discretionary decision not to assert the full scope of the INS’s enforcement authority as permitted under the law…It is important to recognize not only what prosecutorial discretion is but also what it is not. The doctrine of prosecutorial discretion applies to law enforcement decisions whether, and to what extent, to exercise the coercive power of the Government over liberty and property, as authorized by law in cases when individuals have violated the law..The distinction is not always an easy bright-line rule to apply… Like all law enforcement agencies, the INS has finite resources, and it is not possible to investigate and prosecute all immigration violations

It is an oversimplification, but still an insightful one, to conclude that, thanks largely to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 ( IIRAIRA), the importance of prosecutorial discretion has increased in inverse measure to the shrinking remedial actions left open to immigration judges whose ability to grant relief from removal, especially in the context of criminal convictions, has been dramatically curtailed. If the consequences of deportation can no longer be avoided or ameliorated, then the decision on whom to target and how to punish become a moments of surpassing criticality. While prosecutorial discretion is not the answer to a legislature run amuck, it may serve to limit the damage. As Assistant Attorney General Robert Raban wrote to Congressman Barney Frank on January 19, 2000, it is in bad times, more than good, when justice needs prosecutorial discretion the most:Consequently, the IIRAIRA rendered the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the INS the only means for averting the extreme hardship associated with certain deportation and/or removal cases…

The State of Arizona, it would seem, has other priorities. While ICE may feel the need to choose, Arizona manifestly does not. Indeed, the four provisions of SB 1070 are precisely the ones that most flagrantly impose burdens on ICE in the absence of federal selection. In the absence of a matching federal mechanism, SB 1070 requires Arizona law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop, arrest or detain if they have a “reasonable suspicion “ the person is unlawfully present. SB 1070 complete disregards the Morton prosecutorial discretion policy, which now allows an ICE official to grant a stay of removal to a person who even has a removal order. While SB 1070 may still consider this person to be unlawfully present, under the federal prosecutorial discretion policy, this individual who has been granted a stay of removal, along with an order of supervision, may even apply for a work permit. Furthermore, ignorant or indifferent to federal policies that implicitly tolerate or openly protect the undocumented, SB 1070 criminalizes a failure to carry immigration registration documentation. It has already been pointed out that a battered woman who has obtained discretionary deferred action after filing an I-360 self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act will not be conferred with a registration document. Yet, such a person is allowed to remain and even work in the US until he or she obtains permanent residence. While neither the Immigration Reform Control Act of 1986 or the INA as a whole consider unauthorized employment as criminal conduct, SB 1070 does; even to apply for or solicit work is no less felonious. In the absence of federal warrant or any expression of federal interest in prosecution, SB 1070 sanctions warrantless arrest based on probable cause that the alien in question has committed a deportable offense. The New York Times recently but accurately termed this “an invitation to chaos:” While Arizona says its law merely empowers law enforcement to work cooperatively with federal officers, that is demonstratively false. The four provisions at issue go beyond federal law, turning federal guidelines into state enforcement rules and violations of federal rules into state crimes. They transform a federal policy that allows discretion in seeking serious criminals among illegal immigrants into a state mandate to target everyone in Arizona illegally…

This concern is at the core of the pre-emption argument against SB 1070, though it has not received much ink in the popular press. In effect, Arizona seeks to impose an unfunded mandate on Washington, precisely the reverse of what is the norm. As Judge Paez wrote for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Arizona, 641 F. 3d 339, 352-53 (9th Cir.2011):By imposing mandatory obligations on state and local officers, Arizona interferes with the federal government’s authority to implement its priorities and strategies in law enforcement, turning Arizona officers into state-directed DHS agents…the threat of 50 states layering their own immigration enforcement rules on top of the INA weighs in favor of preemption…

It is for this reason that the United States devoted a full 7 pages of it’s appellate brief to the Supreme Court ( pp.17-23) on this very issue. The curtailment of prosecutorial discretion is the negation of federal priorities. On pp. 22-23, we get to the heart of the matter:

The framework that the Constitution and Congress have created does not permit the States to adopt their own immigration programs and policies or to set themselves up as rival decision makers based on disagreement with the focus and scope of federal enforcement. Yet that is precisely what SB 1070 would do, by consciously erecting a regime that would detain, prosecute and incarcerate aliens based on violations of federal law but without regard to federal enforcement provisions, priorities and discretion. SB 1070 cannot be sustained as an exercise in cooperative federalism when its very design discards cooperation and embraces confrontation.

It is not hard to understand or appreciate why or how Arizona is frustrated, for good people of diverse views share this same conviction that ours is a broken immigration regime. It is the particular manner in which Arizona has elected to manifest this dissatisfaction that places the prosecutorial discretion of federal authorities at risk. We must not sacrifice constitutional verities to contemporary passions. Let us return to Madison Federalist No. 51:Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary…

In an increasingly complex, hyper-technical system, the need for discretion as a way to make intelligent choices seems more open and obvious than ever. It is widely acknowledged that we have a dysfunctional immigration system whose systemic dislocation has contributed to the buildup of the undocumented population. In the absence of Congressional intervention to restore a permanent balance, the Administration can and must exercise discretion, devoid of ideology or sentiment, to cobble together interim solutions as the need for them arises. Despite SB 1070, rhetoric is not reality and the targeted exercise of discretion to reconcile divergent and often competing interests is something that the Supreme Court should endorse. James Madison would.(The views expressed by guest author, Gary Endelman, are his own and not of his firm, FosterQuan, LLP)

GOING BEYOND THE POLITICS OF DISCRETION IN THE AMERICAN IMMIGRATION SYSTEM

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus Mehta

The ability of whether the President can use discretion in the immigration arena has become the flavor of the month. The announcement by the DHS on August 18, 2001 under which 300,000 individuals who are low priority can hope to have their cases closed and obtain work authorization was welcomed. The details about how this policy will play out are nicely explained in a Legal Action Center advisory. Although many were pleasantly surprised by this policy, within days of the announcement even advocates for immigration reform have become skeptical about whether this policy will have a dramatic and far reaching impact. Obama supporters have even gone so far to accuse the Obama administration for mere window dressing in order to keep certain voters on his side in the next elections. Commentators such as Dan Kowalski also justifiably feel that ICE personnel will continue to ignore this policy, and choose not to exercise their discretion favorably.

While the President has his critics within the pro-immigration camp regarding his new announcement on discretion, the attempt by immigration restrictionists in Congress to blunt the June 17, 2011 Morton Memo on prosecutorial discretion when viewed in a larger context repeats an old pattern. For instance, Congressmen Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Senator Vitter have proposed a most unusual piece of legislation suitably called the HALT Act (Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act) that will suspend all of the Administration’s discretionary relief until January 21, 2013, which is the day after the next Presidential inauguration.

Those who think the exercise of discretion will reduce enforcement or promote immigration support the concept of discretion. This is the case with the Morton Memo. The same thing happened with respect to the leaked memo to USICS Director Mayorkas – it was written to allow for remediation through executive fiat without the need for Congress to act and it was leaked to prevent this from happening. However, when the policy question appears to reinforce narrow interpretation and make strict enforcement more likely, then the antagonists switch sides and the pro-immigration camp seeks to curb discretion. Skeptics who fear ICE over-reaching often counsel clients to avoid signing up for the IMAGE program precisely because the exercise of discretion by ICE will, in reality, prove both invasive and punitive.

What is lost in all this is an open and honest discussion of the place that discretion has in the American immigration system separate and apart from the substantive issues or ideological positions at stake. In an increasingly complex, hyper-technical system, the need for discretion as a way to make intelligent choices seems more open and obvious than ever. In light of the possibility of more than a decade long backlog in the Employment-based Second and Third Preferences, for persons born in India and China, we provided in The Tyranny of Priority Dates, a dispassionate approach for the exercise of discretion to ameliorate the plight of those caught in the backlogs. The entrenched positions and mutual recriminations that characterize relations between all major interest groups makes such a disinterested dialogue virtually impossible. Consequently, the system becomes increasingly rigid and ever more incapable of responding in a meaningful and effective way to new challenges and emerging opportunities.

The Doris Meissner Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion and Letter from Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben to Congressman Barney Frank (available on AILA Infonet at Document # 00020771, Feb. 7,2000) both dealt with concerns by immigration advocates that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act of 1996 had deprived the legacy INS of the fundamental authority to grant discretionary relief; in each case, it was not the presence or absence of discretion that was of primary concern to critics who sought clarification and reassurance but rather the ability to obtain the substantive relief that Congress had seemed to put out of reach.

Both critics and defenders of discretion often convey the subliminal but powerful message that discretion is the polar opposite of enforcement. Restrictionists oppose discretion because they oppose the substantive relief that discretion makes possible. Advocates promote discretion not because they accept the need for more intelligent or targeted enforcement, but because they hope that its vigorous exercise will make any enforcement less likely.

The point is that whether discretion is good or bad depends upon whether one supports or opposes the short-term end result to which discretion is presumed to lead. A detached, disinterested examination of how discretion will affect the larger national interest or the fundamental heath and rationality of the system itself is, sad to say, conspicuously absent.

The Immigration Policy Center has published a report on the historical role of the Administration in exercising discretion. This paper provides the example of the implementation of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act of 1997 (NACARA), which provided relief, but unequal treatment, to Nicaraguans, Cubans, Salvadorians and Guatemalans. Nicaraguans and Cubans were allowed to adjust their status without preconditions, while Salvadorians and Guatemalans were thrown the gauntlet to demonstrate extreme hardship if removed from the US. While advocates demanded the same standard to apply for Salvadorians and Guatemalans as NACARA sought to apply for Nicaraguans and Cubans, which the then Clinton Administration correctly stated it could not do under the legislation, the Administration compromised through subsequent regulation, and through use of judicious discretion, by softening “extreme hardship” for Salvadorians and Guatemalans through the creation of a rebuttal presumption standard.

The exercise of discretion by the Clinton Administration after the passage of NACARA is a good example of how this exercise was used judiciously to achieve a compromise between competing interests. Moreover, the use of discretionary administrative action is no stranger to immigration policy, and previous efforts to administratively correct hardships or imbalances were implemented without a whisper. Deferred Action has been applied to battered spouse and children self-petitioners who had approved I-360 petitions under the Violence Against Women Act, so that they could remain in the United States and obtain work authorization. In 2006, Congress, in recognition of this informal practice, codified at INA § 204(a)(1)(k) the grant of employment authorization to VAWA self-petitioners. Deferred Action has also been granted to U visa applicants. More recently, and prior to the passage of INA § 204(l), the DHS provided interim relief to surviving spouses of deceased American citizens and their children who were married for less than two years at the time of the citizen’s death. A USCIS memo, issued on June 15, 2009, provided extraordinary relief to spouses whose citizen spouses died regardless of whether the I-130 petitions were approved, pending or even not filed. Such beneficiaries could request deferred action and obtain an EAD. Then, on October 28, 2009, Congress amended the statute, and created § 204(l) to allow, inter alia, a widow (er) who was married less than two years at the time of the citizen’s death to apply for permanent residence. The USCIS has also implemented “parole in place” for spouses for military personnel who would otherwise not be eligible for adjustment of status if they were unable to demonstrate that they were admitted or paroled into the US.

It is widely acknowledged that we have a broken immigration system, which has contributed to the buildup in the undocumented population. In the absence of Congressional intervention to fix the system, the Administration can exercise discretion, devoid of ideology, to remedy the imbalance. In the context of the recent August 18 policy announcement about closing the cases of low priority respondents in removal, people on all sides of the political spectrum acknowledge that it would take about 30 years if the government could hypothetically deport all the 12 million + undocumented persons in the US given its current resources. If it expended more money and resources, it would be counter-productive, in addition to creating a Gestapo-like state tearing families apart, as these precious resources could be efficiently spent elsewhere. Rather, it would be wiser for the Administration to use its executive power to tap into the resources, energies and dreams of people who can ultimately benefit the United States. In providing some legal basis for them to remain in the US under the August 18 policy, even if it does not go all the way, they are more likely to add to tax revenues, spur consumer confidence, buy homes and ultimately build businesses that may result in jobs for Americans.