On the historic election day of Tuesday, November 6, 2012, ID published three important and excellent perspectives related to the vital connection between immigration and US politics. Danielle Beach-Oswald described the state voter ID laws which, clearly, did not suppress enough Democratic votes to cost the President Obama the election. Greg Siskind accurately predicted that Latino voters would support the president by a large margin. And Angelo Paparelli reminded us of the importance of our nation's immigrant origins.
What effect, if any, is yesterday's voting likely to have on immigration policy in President Obama's second term? Will there be a serious attempt at passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill which provides a meaningful opportunity for legalization of up to 12 million unauthorized immigrants? Or at least, will there be a speedup in DACA approvals, or, even better, an extension of deferred action to larger sections of the unauthorized population?
Will USCIS continue to churn out irrelevant and inappropriate RFE's, such as the one I received a few days ago from a USCIS Service Center asking an AOS applicant to submit certain documents which had already been submitted with the I-485 application? (By the way, this is the second such request I have received from the same Service Center in the past few weeks, even though the two cases were completely unrelated - is there a bug or virus affecting vision making the rounds in the area where that Service Center is located?)
Will US consular officers overseas continue to look for specious excuses to "verify" and unconscionably delay or deny meritorious and easily approvable applications for skilled or professional work visas and employment-based green cards? Will immigration detainees still face the horrible prospect of having their lives cut short or damaged by inexcusable medical neglect, such as an incident which a colleague of mine mentioned to me the other day in which one of his clients suffered serious, permanent injury through failure to provide him with medical treatment for genital cancer while he was in immigration detention?
Of course, there was no clue to any of this among the broad platitudes (including at least one reference to immigration) in President Obama's victory speech early in the morning of November 7. But one thing should be clear from the election. The Republican opposition to immigration reform may very possibly be weakened as the GOP starts the inevitable process of finger-pointing in the wake of its White House and Senate defeats.
At the very least, it is a safe prediction that there will be less impetus to extend controversial state immigration laws such as the ones in Arizona and Alabama, let alone introduce radical proposals such as an attempt to nullify the 14th Amendment by depriving American-born children of birthright US citizenship based on their parents' immigration status (or lack of it).
But the fact that Republican opposition to immigration reform may possibly be weaker in Obama's second term (despite the GOP's keeping control of the House) places an greater burden on the president than before to change course in favor of more liberal immigration policies. The buck has always stopped in the Oval Office. The immigration buck will now stop there with an even bigger bang.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years