Politics
DREAMers (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) and parents take an oath in a mock citizenship ceremony during a "United we Dream," rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 10, 2013, sending a signal to the House of Representatives’ GOP leadership as they go into their meeting that afternoon to discuss immigration reform with their caucus. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

USCIS union president cautions lawmakers on House-fashioned DREAM Act

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

The president of the union representing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers and staff voiced concerns to Republican House members about proposals to grant legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

In a letter sent Tuesday night to Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Immigration and Border Security subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy, National USCIS Council president Kenneth Palinkas questioned the wisdom of adopting legislation under the Obama administration to legalize undocumented immigrants brought to the country illegally.

The letter is also copied to the GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee.

“As you know the Obama Administration has already bypassed Congress to implement a version of the proposal you are now considering. Of course, to do so, the Administration had to simultaneously suspend laws previously passed by Congress… What is to stop the Administration from simply issuing another round of non-enforcement orders (written or oral) that would eviscerate any attempted limitations in your bill?” Palinkas wrote.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte have reportedly been working on legislation aimed at granting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

Last week the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held a hearing on the matter. While Democrats on the panel said that legalization for just the children was not enough, most of the Republicans on the panel signaled they would be open to such a proposal.

Palinkas’ letter was full of questions about the likelihood that such legislation could be extended or circumvented by the Obama administration and how members would prevent that from happening.

“If these solutions are not provided, a DREAM Act-style bill could quickly turn into a permanent feature of U.S. immigration policy with huge unintended consequences. In practice, it could establish a precedent that would expand birthright citizenship in the future to apply to any new arrivals (and, by extension, their relatives) who claim they came here at a certain age,” Palinkas wrote. “Clearly, this would be an extraordinary magnet for unlawful entry and overstays, and create a massive hole in future enforcement.”

Palinkas, whose union was vocally opposed to the Senate immigration bill, added that the needs of USCIS have been overlooked as, he noted, the agency lacks the resources it needs to “ensure that the millions we admit into the country properly qualify for the immigration benefits they seek.”

“Until our inadequate resources as USCIS employees are upgraded and the culture of the current Administration changes, U.S. citizens will continue to be put at needless risk,” he wrote calling for more full-time permanent staff.

He stressed that USCIS is “ill-equipped” to process “the sort of far-reaching plans before Congress right now” and requested that lawmakers work with USCIS adjudicators as they move forward with their immigration proposals.

“The sponsors of the Senate legislation pushed aside the opportunity to work with ICE and USCIS professionals and therefore produced a 1,200-page bill that greatly weakens our national security and produces more illegal immigration. I would therefore urge all House lawmakers not to conference with the dangerous Senate bill that will produce a totally deficient comprehensive proposal,” he wrote.

Follow Caroline on Twitter