Tuesday, November 25, 2014
International Migration Outlook 2014 Publication Date : 01 Dec 2014
This flagship publication on migration analyses recent developments in migration movements and policies in OECD countries and selected non-OECD countries. This edition also contains two special chapters on "The labour market integration of immigrants and their children: developing, activating and using skills" and "Managing labour migration: Smart policies to support economic growth". It also includes Country notes and a Statistical Annex. This special edition is launched at the occasion of the High-level Policy Forum on Migration (Paris, 1-2 December 2014).
As fleshed out in some detail by the Department of Homeland Security, President Obama's recently announced immigration plan has quite a few components. One item on the list of immigration initiatives is "Revise Removal Priorities":
"DHS will implement a new department-wide enforcement and removal policy that places top priority on national security threats, convicted felons, gang members, and illegal entrants apprehended at the border; the second-tier priority on those convicted of significant or multiple misdemeanors and those who are not apprehended at the border, but who entered or reentered this country unlawfully after January 1, 2014; and the third priority on those who are non-criminals but who have failed to abide by a final order of removal issued on or after January 1, 2014. Under this revised policy, those who entered illegally prior to January 1, 2014, who never disobeyed a prior order of removal, and were never convicted of a serious offense, will not be priorities for removal. This policy also provides clear guidance on the exercise of prosecutorial discretion."
The Department of Homeland Security ( DHS) and its immigration components - CBP, ICE, and USCIS - are responsible for enforcing the nation's immigration laws. Due to limited resources, DHS and its Components cannot respond to all immigration violations or remove all persons illegally in the United States. As is true of virtually every other law enforcement agency, DHS must exercise prosecutorial discretion in the enforcement of the law. And , in the exercise of that discretion, DHS can and should develop smart enforcement priorities, and ensure that use of its limited resources is devoted to the pursuit of those priorities. DHS's enforce ment priorities are, have been, and will continue to be national security, border security, and public safe ty. DHS personnel are directed to prioritize the use of enforcement personnel, detention space, and removal assets accordingly.
In the immigration context, pro secutorial discretion should apply not only to the decision to issue, serve, file, or cancel a Notice to Appear, but also to a broad range of other discretionary enforcement decisions, including deciding: whom to stop, question, and arrest; whom to detain or release; whether to s ettle, dismiss, appeal, or join in a motion on a case; and whether to grant deferred action, parole, or a stay of removal instead of pursuing removal in a case. While DHS may exercise prosecutorial discretion at any stage of an enforcement proceeding, it is generally preferable to exercise such discretion as early in the case or proceeding as possible in order to preserve government resources that would otherwise be expended in pursuing enforcement and removal of higher priority cases. Thus, DHS personnel are expected to exercise discret ion and pursue these priorities at all stages of the enforcement process - from the earliest investigative stage to enforcing final orders of r emoval- subject to their chains of command and to th e particular responsibilities and authorities applicable to their specific position."
The 2011 John Morton memo on prsecutorial discretion is rescinded and superseded. The immigration enforcement priorities are now stated as:
Priority 1 (threats to national security, border security, and public safety)
Priority 2 (misdemeanants and new immigration violators)
Priority 3 (other immigration violations)
The memorandum discusses "Execising Prosecutorial Discretion" and states that such discretion "requires DHS personnel to exercise discretion based on individual circumstances. . . . In making such judgments, DHS personnel should consider factors such as: extenuating circumstances involving the offense of conviction; extended length of time since the offense of conviction; length of time in the United States; military service; family or community ties in the United States; status as a victim, witness or plaintiff in civil or criminal proceedings; or compelling humanitarian factors such as poor health, age, pregnancy, a young child, or a seriusly ill relative. These factors are not intended to be dispositive nor is this list intended to be exhaustive. Decisions should be based on the totality of the circumstances."
The enforcement guidelines focus on public safety and are more focused than the types of removals seen under the Secure Communities program, which is now abolished. This might result in removals of more serious criminal offenders than currently is the practice. The guidelines also make it clear that in exercising prosecutorial discretion, the individual circumstances of the immigrant should be considered.
I had the opportunity to discuss the President's immigration initiatives on Capital Public Radio yesterday morning. Although the press reports strongly suggest that the President Obama's initiatives may border on the unconstitutional (which apparently is more newsworthy than characterizing the actions as in the mainstream), it seems to me that the rather modest steps taken by the President with respect to deferred (i.e., temporary) action, ending Secure Communities, focusing scarce enforecment resources on "felons, not families," etc., are well within the power of the Executive Branch and similar to immigration actions taken by previous Presidents. As a recent letter from a group of law professors suggests (as wel as previous letters), the vast majority of law professors seem to agree.
Apparently seeking to stir the pot as he did in questioning birthright citizenship in a 1985 book, Yale's Peter Schuck has made the jarring claim in the New York Times that President Obama might be subject to impeachment for committing high crimes and misdemeanors in the immigration initiatives. That extreme position, which one would expect more from a political partisan than a law professor, unfortunately plays into the efforts to provoke controversy and polarize the public.
There is room for reasoned debate about whether the President's initiatives make sense as a matter of policy and politics. However, the drumbeat that executive actions of dubious legality have been taken, calls for impeachment and government shut downs, and the like are unlikely to lead to productive debate about the proper policies to pursue with respect to immigration. Until the nation can have that discussion, it is hard to see how Congress will be passing any kind of comprhensive immigration enforcement measure.
From the Bookshelves: Rethinking the Attractiveness of EU Labour Immigration Policies: Comparative perspectives on the EU, the US, Canada and beyond by Sergio Carrera, Elspeth Guild, Katharina Eisele
Rethinking the Attractiveness of EU Labour Immigration Policies: Comparative perspectives on the EU, the US, Canada and beyond by Sergio Carrera, Elspeth Guild, Katharina Eisele
Is Europe's immigration policy attractive? One of the priorities driving current EU debates on labour immigration policies is the perceived need to boost Europe's attractiveness vis-á-vis 'talented' and 'highly skilled' immigrants. The EU sees itself playing a role in persuading immigrants to choose Europe over other competing destinations, such as the US or Canada.
This book critically examines the determinants and challenges characterising discussions focused on the attractiveness of labour migration policies in the EU as well as other international settings. It calls for re-thinking some of the most commonly held premises and assumptions underlying the narratives of ‘attractiveness’ and ‘global competition for talent’ in migration policy debates. How can an immigration policy, in fact, be made to be ‘attractive’ and what are the incentives at play (if any)?
A multidisciplinary team of leading scholars and experts in migration studies address the main issues and challenges related to the role played by rights and discrimination, qualifications and skills, and matching demand and supply in needs-based migration policies. The experiences in other jurisdictions such as South America, Canada and the United States are also covered: Are these countries indeed so ‘attractive’ and ‘competitive’, and if so what makes them more attractive than the EU?
On the basis of the discussions and findings presented across the various contributions, the book identifies a number of priorities for policy formulation and design in the next generation of EU labour migration policies. In particular, it highlights important initiatives that the new European Commission should focus on in the years to come.
Sergio Carrera is Senior Research Fellow and head of the Justice and Home Affairs research unit at CEPS; Elspeth Guild is Jean Monnet Professor ad personam of European Migration Law at the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and Queen Mary, University of London, UK. She is also an Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS and a partner at the London law firm Kingsley Napley. Katharina Eisele is a Researcher in the Justice and Home Affairs section of CEPS.
Monday, November 24, 2014
My very first day in immigration court as a young lawyer, an Indian man in full shackles fell to his knees and begged me to help him. I reviewed his paperwork with an analytical eye and hoped that law school had prepared me to advise him. He had a rare legal remedy available to him, and I explained to him what he needed to tell the judge (he was defending himself in pro se). The next five men I interviewed were not so fortunate and none had any defense to deportation. Chained together, they each spoke in turn to the judge—only one was not deported. I discovered the power of knowledge and that law could be arbitrary in who it assisted and who it condemned.
When Obama’s new executive order was released, one of my friends told me that when he discovered he was covered under the order, he felt as though he had beat stage four cancer. He was too old for the first round of DACA, and had felt the sting of disappointment after the first executive order. Yet now he was finally free. It was the little things like the dignity of being able to drive a woman on a date—to the larger issue of having a legal identity that made him feel an incredible release.
My mind spun in a different direction, and I began thinking of everyone who could have benefited, but who had already been deported. I thought of the wreckage of so many lives that could have been avoided. One of my clients—who had come to the USA as a toddler—told me that after he was deported, he felt like a stateless ghost untethered to his native land of Jamaica. He pined for his children every day across the Caribbean ocean. Like an uncelebrated Odysseus, he crossed the seas multiple times to reunite with his family. He never succeeded—arrested and deported again and again. He told me he would keep trying to reenter the USA until he died. In the USA were his life, his children, and everything that made life worth living.
Just as the executive order is progress, it is also a reminder of our nation’s past. A tribute to the sacrifices immigrants in our nation made to reach this breaking point. The resistance and the swelling of discontent—all brought to its boiling point. It is a time of celebration and mourning. But also a time of hope—hope that the irrepressible voices of immigrants are finally being heard. And above all Obama’s order is a dare—a dare to Congress to retract rather than advance the rights and dignity of immigrants.
Immigration Law Clinic
University of Miami School of Law 1311 Miller Drive Coral Gables, FL 33146
Time: Thursday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. and dinner | Friday: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Registration: Coming soon!
This biennial conference aims to create a space for junior law teachers to share drafts of writing projects, discuss teaching techniques, and get to know one another.
The conference will consist of panel discussions on teaching immigration law (doctrinal and clinical), professional development, scholarship, recent developments in immigration law and policy, and WIP/incubator sessions. It will be open to emerging immigration law teachers (tenure-track and non-tenure track) who have been teaching immigration law for eight years or fewer.
Professor Stephen Legomsky: The President Is Right on Immigration: Obama’s legal authority is clear, as it was for Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes
In this Wall Street Journal op/ed, legendary immigration law professor Steve Legomsky defends President Obama's limited -- and temporary -- immigration relief for long-term undocumented immigrants. To see the full article at the Journal website, one must login. But anyone can see Steve's op/ed by googling “wsj Legomsky” and clicking on “The President is Right on Immigration”.
I very much agree with Steve and believe that the constitutional and lawful authority for the President's immigration initatives are pretty clear-cut.
The Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Assistance Project is a new initiative in which USF law students provide legal assistance to unaccompanied minors as they navigate the U.S. immigration system. The project is a component of ImmigrationProf blogger Professor Bill Hing’s Deportation and Rebellious Lawyering class.
Born in Vietnam, David Tran named his company, Huy Fong Foods, after the boat by which he immigrated to America. Seeking to create a kind of Heinz ketchup for the Vietnamese-American community, he bottled and sold his own unique take on Thai sriracha sauce, blending fresh red jalepeños, garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar. Without the help of any advertising, his product has since exploded in popularity far beyond its original audience. It is now a global product sold in major supermarkets, heralded by celebrity chefs, and trumpeted by zealous fans across the Internet.
For a while. Huy Fong Foods was embroiled in a controversy (and a lawsuit) in Southern California due to objections from some quarters over the smells generated by the manufacturing of the company's signature hot sauce.
As fleshed out in some detail by the Department of Homeland Security, President Obama's recently announced immigration plan has quite a few components. One item on the list of immigration initiatives is "Personnel Reform for ICE Officers":
"Related to these enforcement and removal reforms, we will support job series realignment and premium ability pay coverage for ICE ERO officers engaged in removal operations. These measures are essential to bringing ICE agents and officers pay in line with other law enforcement personnel."
"In recent years , Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) priority missions have increasingly focused on national security and public safety. In furtherance of that, the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations ' (ERO) enforcement strategy and initiatives have shifted heavily towards the investigation, identification, location, arrest, prosecution, and removal of criminal and other aliens who present a danger to national security or threaten public safety. This targeted approach has in fact resulted in record breaking numbers of criminal removals. ICE ERO has accomplished this under a personnel structure that lags behind that of other federal law enforcement agencies and components , including other ICE components. This discrepancy hurts morale and presents other management challenges. I know you share my commitment to address this.
Today we announced new enforcement priorities for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that will further ICE ERO's focus on DHS's national security and public safety missions. I have concluded that these policy changes should be accompanied by a recalibration of ICE ERO's workforce and personnel pay structure."
The memorandum lists the following steps to be taken ion the ICE personnel reform:
1. Job Series Realignment for ICE ERO Officers
2. Premium Ability Pay Coverage for ICE ERO Officers
3. "Next Steps: "DHS Secretary Johnson] will thus recommend that the Administration pursue and prioritize regulations and legislation necessary to address job series realignment and premium pay structure that synchronizes our personnel structure and compensation with the critical mission the component executes on behalf of the public."
The steps outlined by the seem to be rather modest reform to the job classifications and pay practices for ICE officers involved in detention and removal operations. The changes can be expected to be important to the recruitment, retention, and morale of ICE officers.
The personnel reforms, however, do not address serious concerns about the adequacy of the training of the Border Patrol officers, which allegedly has lagged in a time of greatly increasing numbers of officers. Several reports, including by the DHS's own Office of the Inspector General, have questioned the training and called for improvements.
Immigration Article of the Day: Domestic Violence and the Plight of the Unauthorized Migrant by Mimi Tsankov
Domestic Violence and the Plight of the Unauthorized Migrant by Mimi Tsankov, University of Colorado Boulder; University of Denver, Sturm College of Law October 1, 2014 Federal Bar Association's The Federal Lawyer Journal (Oct/Nov 2014)
Abstract: Understanding the maze of legal rights involved in migrant domestic violence matters can be daunting. The cases can involve diverse areas of law and multiple jurisdictions. This article describes the various types of U.S. immigration-related relief available to migrant domestic violence victims.
A TIME FOR HONEST TRUTH: A PASSIONATE DEFENSE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S EXECUTIVE ORDERS ON IMMIGRATION by Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta
Sunday, November 23, 2014
In this op/ed, Professor Michael Olivas criticizes Republicans in the House of Represntatives for the strong negative public reactions to President Obama's latest immigration initiatives. In so doing, he kicks things off with a wonderful film analogy:
"In `Casablanca,' the greatest immigration movie ever made, the police round up the `usual suspects.' We see Rick meet Ilsa in one of the great `gin joints in all the world,' and Inspector Renault is `shocked … shocked!' at the gambling going on, as he is handed his winnings. Who knew this improbable 1942 wartime movie classic was to be reprised by today's elected officials?"
Photo courtesy of U.S. DHS website
As outlined in some detail by the Department of Homeland Security, President Obama's recently announced immigration plan has quite a few components. The very first item on the DHS list are measures to "Strengthen Border Security":
"DHS will implement a Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Strategy to fundamentally alter the way in which we marshal resources to the border. This new plan will employ DHS assets in a strategic and coordinated way to provide effective enforcement of our laws and interdict individuals seeking to illegally across land, sea, and air. To accomplish this, DHS is commissioning three task forces of various law enforcement agencies. The first will focus on the southern maritime border. The second will be responsible for the southern land border and the West Coast. The third will focus on investigations to support the other two task forces. In addition, DHS will continue the surge of resources that effectively reduced the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally this summer. This included additional Border Patrol agents, ICE personnel, criminal investigators, additional monitors, and working with DOJ to reorder dockets in immigration courts, along with reforms in these courts."
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson in a memorandum titled the "Southern Border and Approaches Campaign" to the heads of agencies involved in border enforcement outlines new policies "in furtherance of . . . Department wide Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan . . . announced on May 8 , 2014 . These directives are an extension of this Department's new Unity of Effort initiative . . . announced on April 22, 2014." The directive calls for the formation of three task forces and the formulation of a new border enforcement campaign:
"The overarching goals of the Southern Border and Approaches Campaign are to enforce our immigration laws and interdict individuals seeking to illegally cross our land, sea, and air borders; degrade transnational criminal organizations; and decrease the terrorism threat to the Nation, all without impeding the flow of lawful trade, travel, and commerce.
The ten objectives of the Southern Border and Approaches Strategy will be:
1. Minimize the risk of terrorism.
2. Increase the perceived risk of engaging in or facilitating illegal transnational or cross-border activity.
3. Interdict people and goods attempting to enter illegally between ports of entry.
4. Increase situational awareness in the air, land , and sea border and approaches.
5 . Decrease or disrupt the profitability and finances of transnational criminal activities at the optimal points.
6. Dismantle criminal and terrorist organizations and networks.
7. Prevent the illegal exploitation of legal flows.
8. Maximize the resiliency of key nodes, conveyances, pathways, and transportation infrastructure.
9. Minimize the cost to travelers and delays to shippers in being screened and vetted at ports of entry.
10. Maximize the number of travelers and value of imported goods that undergo screening before arriving at ports of entry."
The efforts to "strengthen border seciurity" outlined by the DHS seem relatively modest. The three task forces will for the most part seem to be focusing on improving existing border enforcement efforts. The the ten stated goals of border security -- including protecting the nation from threats of terrorism and criminal activity -- appear to align nicely with other changes announced by the President in terms of focusing immigration enforcement on true dangers to the public safety (i.e., deport felons, not families).
It seems to me that strengthening of border security has been a consistent theme of President Obama's immigration enforcement policies, with annual removals in the neighborhood of 400,000 a testament to those efforts. Nonetheless, the DHS border security initiatives remind us that the President is committed to border enforcement. This is an important matter politically as every comprehensive immigration reform proposal seems to include an enforcement plank and many Republican political leaders accuse the President of failing to ensure the integrity of U.S. borders.
Immigration Article of the Day: Famigration (Fam Imm): The Next Frontier in Immigration Law by Kari E. Hong
Famigration (Fam Imm): The Next Frontier in Immigration Law by Kari E. Hong, Boston College - Law School October 15, 2014 Virginia Law Review Online, Vol. 100, October 2014 Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 338
Abstract: The recently published article, Immigration’s Family Values by Professor Kerry Abrams and R. Kent Piacenti, and the forthcoming Removing Citizens: Parenthood, Citizenship, and Immigration Courts by Kari Hong examine how, when, and why immigration law uses a different definition of family than the one used in state courts. Despite their differences, in conversation, these two pieces highlight how the Department of Homeland Security likely is either following misguided policies or pursuing improper objectives when creating a federal family law. Crimmigration (Crim Imm) scholarship successfully identified the ways in which the (purported) civil proceedings of immigration law needed the extra constitutional protections found in criminal law. In analogous ways, Famigration (Fam Imm) calls on scholars to engage in the similar project of scrutinizing existing immigration practices through the lens of family law. In do so, a more systematized approach may introduce constitutional protections, resolve federal and state law conflicts, and formulate more universal, idealized concepts into the technocratic scheme of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) is a national nonprofit "working to end the isolation and abuse of men, women, and children in U.S. immigration detention through visitation, independent monitoring, storytelling, and advocacy."
The group recently posted the following video to youtube. It tells the story of Carolina, a 16-year-old girl in U.S. immigration detention.
On June 15, 2012, the president announced a new deferred action plan for young people known as DREAMers. He said:
Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people. Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.
That same day, Janet Napolitano, then Secretary of Homeland Security, issued a policy memorandum describing the limits of this new plan. And the USCIS soon thereafter released FAQs outlining the programs boundaries. It provided deferred action and work authorization for individuals who were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, entered the United States before June 15, 2007 (5 years prior) as children under the age of 16, and met specific educational and public safety criteria.
The new policy rolled out on Thursday changes two of those criteria: age and duration. It expands DACA to cover individuals of any age. And it expands DACA to include young people who have been present in the United States since January 1, 2010.
It also changes the length of deferred action and work authorization from two years to three.
The most visible beneficiary of these changes will be Jose Antonio Vargas. In 2011, Vargas outed himself as undocumented in the New York Times magazine with an article titled My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant. He followed that piece with a powerful documentary released this past July: Documented. He has since launched Define American, "a media and culture campaign using the power of story to transcend politics and shift conversation around immigration, identity, and citizenship in America."
I have no doubt that Vargas' powerful personal story and his relentless advocacy played a role in the recent changes.
Vargas has said that when he obtains DACA status and travel authorization, he will return to the Philippines to see his mother for the first time in 21 years.
One part of the new immigration action announced by President Obama and outlined in detail by DHS is the end of a federal program called Secure Communities, also known as S-Comm.
Secure Communities was created in 2008. It enabled local law enforcement to forward the fingerprints of every individual arrested and booked into custody to federal authorities so that they could be checked against immigration records. If it was determined that the fingerprints matched an individual without authorization to remain in the country, ICE could issue a detainer - essentially asking the local authorities to continue hold the individual until they could be picked up by ICE, who would begin the process of deportation.
The 2008 pilot program operated in just 14 jurisdictions. It expanded exponentially from there to reach thousands of jurisdictions.
But not all local law enforcement agencies wanted to be a part of S-Comm. Some who had initially agreed to the program wanted to withdraw. But by 2010, ICE had drafted a memo supporting its position that S-Comm should be mandatory by 2013. By 2011, that had become the official position of the federal government. S-Comm would be mandatory by 2013.
One of the reasons local authorities disliked S-Comm was because it triggered ICE notification based on arrest and booking - not convictions. After all, not everyone arrested is convicted of a crime. They may not even be charged with a crime. And so the program had the effect of chilling relationships between law enforcement and immigrant communities.
Another problem with S-Comm had to do with the ICE detainers. There was a question about whether these detainers were voluntary. In a February 2014 letter to Representative Mike Thompson, ICE confirmed that the detainers were voluntary. Soon after, the Third Circuit agreed. And in Oregon, a plaintiff was awarded damages under 42 USC § 1983 after being held on a ICE detainer after she could have been released on bail. The Oregon decision led sheriffs around the country to publicly announce their refusal to hold people based on ICE detainers because of a fear of civil liability.
All of which brings us to the president's announcement on Thursday. Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, has issued a new policy memo. The first words of the memo are: "The Secure Communities program, as we know it, will be discontinued." He goes on to say:
The goal of Secure Communities was to more effectively identify and facilitate the removal of criminal aliens in the custody of state and local law enforcement agencies. But the reality is the program has attracted a great deal of criticism, is widely misunderstood, and is embroiled in litigation; its very name has become a symbol for general hostility toward the enforcement of our immigration laws.
DHS will continue to assess fingerprint data for local law enforcement. But
unless the alien poses a demonstrable risk to national security, enforcement actions through the new program will only be taken against aliens who are convicted of specifically enumerated crimes.
This is a momentous change. In keeping with the president's promise to deport "felonies, not families," individuals who have not been charged with or convicted of a crime will no longer be swept up by local law enforcement - regardless of their immigration status. The promise appears to be a focus on those convicted of serious crimes.
Jeh Johnson also addressed the problem of detainers.
I am directing ICE to replace requests for detention (i.e., requests that an agency hold an individual beyond the point at which they would otherwise be released) with requests for notification (i.e. , requests that state or local law enforcement notify ICE of a pending release during the time that person is otherwise in custody under state or local authority).
If in special circumstances ICE seeks to issue a request for detention (rather than a request for notification), it must specify that the person is subject to a final order of removal or there is other sufficient probable cause to find that the person is a removable alien, thereby addressing the Fourth Amendment concerns raised in recent federal court decisions.
This is a sea change that is to be commended.
As outlined in some detail by the Department of Homeland Security, President Obama's recently announced immigration plan has quite a few components. In the coming days, I will (and my co-bloggers are free to join in) comment on various parts of the plan.
One of the immigration measures near the end of DHS's list of initiatives is to "Promote the Naturalization Process":
"To promote access to U.S. citizenship, we will permit the use of credit cards as a payment option for the naturalization fee, and expand citizenship public awareness. It is important to note that the naturalization fee is $680, currently payable only by cash, check or money order. DHS will also explore the feasibility of expanding fee waiver options."
1. Implementing Credit Card Processing
2. Conducting a Fee Study to Explore a Partial Fee Waiver Program
3. Expanding Public Awareness/Promotion Media Campaigns
The naturalization component part of the Obama immigration will likely receive little attention -- and rightly so. Although allowing fees can be substantial (with total fees for filing a naturalization petition and related documents cost around $600), allowing for the acceptance of credit card payment and exploring a possible partial fee waiver arrangement, cannot be said to be especially far-reaching changes to the naturalization process. These measures, of course, might encourage some lawful permanent residents to file naturalization papers; however, one would not think that any increase in petitions due to these changes would be great. Depending on the concrete actions taken, outreach and media efforts to promote naturalization also may have some positive impacts in informing eligible lawful permanent residents of the process for obtaining citizenship. Still, the memo does not seem to propose anything like a naturalization drive or any kind of aggressive effort to encourage eligible immigrants to become citizens.
With respect to naturalization, the Obama administration in its current immigration initiative package unquestionably has taken a cautious approach. The administration may have wanted to steer clear of the controversy that surrounded the "Citizenship USA" program led by Vice President Al Gore in the Clinton years, which was criticized as a poorly crafted program that increased naturalization numbers greatly but sacrificed quality for quantity and was little more than a device to secure more Democratic voters. Conservative commentators continue to claim that Democrats are using immigration for a variety of political ends -- including gaining new Democratic voters.
Put simply, the naturalization component of the Obama immigration initiatives is likely to be uncontroversial and to have limited impact on the current citizenship process. The President took the cautious approach, probably in an attempt not to provoke cries of political partisanship.