Politics

Obama’s immigration bill offers amnesty to criminal immigrants, money for lawyers

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama’s draft immigration plan would provide work permits and a “path to citizenship” to illegal immigrants who have fled police and or who await deportation in jail. It would also provide a pathway for immigrants whose convictions are subsequently vacated, and for those who have been jailed for fewer than five years, according to the drafts’ supporters.

The draft, which was leaked on Sunday, would also provide illegal immigrants with many new legal rights, and create a cornucopia of billing opportunities for immigration lawyers.

For example, one section allows illegal immigrants who have committed crimes to stay in the country until their courtroom appeals are settled, perhaps years after their deportation was ordered.

“Sec. 123 of the White House bill would allow immigrants to exhaust their [criminal] appeals before being removed on the basis of a criminal conviction,” said a Feb. 19 tweet from Ben Winograd, an immigration lawyer in D.C. Winograd formerly worked at the American Immigration Council.

Other sections of the draft bill would allow judges to provide illegals with taxpayer-funded lawyers and fine government immigration lawyers.

Judge could also let illegal immigrants stay if their deportations would incur an “extreme” hardship to the deportee, rather than today’s standard of “exceptional and extremely unusual” hardship, according to Winograd.

The much-touted immigration rewrite is being pushed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which helped created the immigration council.

The association’s 12,000 members would profit from the draft law because they would be paid to guide clients through the new complexity, and to help their clients win work visas and also their own slices of American citizenship.

The “provision show that the administration is not serious about enforcing immigration laws,” said Steve Camarota, the research director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

The complex provisions “gut the law when it comes redefine when illegal immigrants facing deportation can stay,” he said.

“Public safety …. and enforcing our immigration laws do not seem to matter,” added Camarota, whose group backs reforms that would halve annual immigration to roughly 500,000 people.

Obama’s draft law would wipe also out all state and local rules that penalize illegal immigrants, sharply reducing the ability of voters in every state, county and city to protect their communities if federal authorities decline to enforce immigration law.

The draft’s details are important, partly because Obama says he will push Congress to pass his draft if legislators do not write their own law.

More importantly, many of the draft’s features are being pushed by immigration lawyers who are lobbying the eight senators in the so-called gang of eight. The leading senators include Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

The White House’s lawyer-friendly draft shows that it “has outsourced the formation of immigration policy to the American Immigration Lawyers Association,” said Camarota.