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Obama to ease restrictions on returning immigrants

Waivers would help those applying to return with legal status

The Obama administration is expected to announce Friday a change to immigration policies that would ease restrictions on illegal immigrants trying to re-enter the country after applying for legal status.

The change, first reported by the New York Times, would allow the United States Citizen and Immigration Services, or USCIS, to give applicants provisional waivers here before they move back to their home countries to apply for legal status. The waivers would allow the applicants re-entry during the application process.

"The goal is to substantially reduce the time that the U.S. citizen is separated from the spouse or child when that separation would yield an extreme hardship," USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas told the Times.

Under the current rule immigrants who admit to being in the country illegally – what the government calls entering without inspection – and wish to apply for legal status must return to their country of origin and apply there. When they do that, they are barred from entering this country for a number of years.

The same applies to immigrants who overstay a period of legal admission. An immigrant who has been in the United States illegally for more than 180 days but less than a year must wait three years before attempting reentry.

That increases to 10 years if the illegal stay is longer than a year. Immigrant rights groups have said the policy separates families when spouses, children and siblings of legal residents or citizens are forced to leave the country for that extended period of time. Certain hardship exceptions are sometimes granted, but critics say that process is also lengthy and flawed.

The proposal comes as Democrats say obstructionist lawmakers from the right are hindering progress on the immigration front. It also comes as when Obama, whose administration has deported a record number of immigrants, is losing support among Latinos.

Analysts say whichever candidate wins the White House later this year must obtain the support of at least 40 percent of that demographic. According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the country now has an estimated 12.2 million projected Latino voters, an increase of about 26 percent from 2008's figures. Texas is home to about 2 million of them.

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The move has already drawn the the ire of  top GOP lawmakers, who have balked at other recent proposals set forth by the Obama administration.

"President Obama and his administration are bending long established rules to put illegal immigrants ahead of the interests of American citizens and legal immigrants.  This proposal from the Obama administration comes with no surprise considering their abuse of administrative powers," Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said in a statement this morning.

Smith, the chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, has hurled a steady pattern of harsh rebukes toward the administration.

After last summer's directive by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, which urged federal prosecutors to use "prosecutorial discretion" — taking into account factors like education, relatives who are U.S. citizens or who have served in the military, or whether the individual is a primary caretaker of someone who is ill —  when determining which illegal immigrants to place in deportation proceedings, Smith filed legislation that would have limited the president's immigration enforcement powers.

The chairman said the move was an attempt by the president to grant "backdoor amnesty." The administration said it was an attempt to focus the government's limited resources on deporting criminal aliens that pose a threat to public safety. 

That was followed by an announcement in August by the Department of Homeland Security, that it would begin reviewing the case files of the estimated 300,000 illegal immigrants in deportation proceedings to determine which should be released from custody.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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3 comments on this story

3
179 comments
Jan 6, 2012, 3:18 pm
-0 +1

Which Presidential candidate will stop the illegal immigration, into this sovereign nation? OR DO THEY ONLY CARE ABOUT VOTES AND CHEAP LABOR?

Investigate what you can do for 22 million jobless American workers and how to contain President Obama from his discretionary means to alter immigration laws.  A new amnesty according to the ‘Heritage Foundation’ would add another $2.6 TRILLION DOLLARS to the financial U.S. Treasury ceiling of $15 TRILLION DOLLARS and rising daily. We must arrest the abuse of the Department of Justice against states, trying to survive, under the welfare bombardment of illegal aliens. Only the TEA PARTY and not the two old, tired established parties will enforce immigration laws. Only the Tea Party will build the real two parallel fences, prosecute city officials compliant with Sanctuary Cities and additionally restrain a federal DREAM bill. Only the TEA PARTY will press for the mandatory ‘Legal Workforce Act,’ E-Verify and secondary the ‘Birthright Citizenship Bill.’ Only the TEA PARTY will cut short any further contempt by this administration for the U.S. Constitution and the undermining of the Congressional voices. Everything you need to know is located at these Non-profit, Pro-Sovereignty organizations. www.numbersusa.com, www.americanpatrol.com &  http://www.fairus.org websites. The legal website of www.judicialwatch.org will open up your eyes to the corruption hidden within the confines of Washington and the state Capitol hierarchy, who are spending trillions of your dollars with impunity. JOIN YOUR LOCAL TEA PARTY AND CONTACT THE SENATE AND HOUSE REPRESENTATIVES AND DEMAND MANDATORY E-VERIFY   (H.R. 2885) AND THE BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP BILL ( H.R.140) CALL THE WASHINGTON AT 202-224-3121

KEEP YOUR VOTE SAFE! ILLEGAL ALIENS WILL VOTE IN ALL ELECTIONS.

2
1763 comments
Jan 6, 2012, 1:14 pm
-0 +0

blah blah blah…

I’ll admit, I was taken in by the headline. But, once I saw the author I stopped reading. So, if the Sentinel or whomever counts how read this is by the amount of mouse clicks have them go ahead and subtract one from that number.

1
318 comments
Jan 6, 2012, 1:05 pm
-0 +1

little by little day by day this Prez never ceases to amaze me. Rewards for breaking the law only encourages more illegals.  Just in time for pandering to hispanics for the re_election of the marxists. He isnt stupid, just anti american and anti constitution.  His recent speech telling us that he can drive around congress when making new legislation and rules should alert us all as to his intentions. This should outrage any thinking person. You are illegal, you go home, you get a waiver and can return during your application process.  Very clever.  Yet another form of backdoor amnesty. I bet eric barry and big Sis had a good time figuring this one out.  Slaps on the back all around. Har Har, we will get our unamerican way any way we can.  This one tops them all. Come on over illegally, go back home, and now you can come back. No problems. Hope and change. Change for sure and almost all of it a resounding Potus takeover.

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Pete Souza/White House

President Obama tapes his weekly radio address on Dec. 29.