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DHS Calls Comprehensive Immigration Reform "Top Priority"

Department of Homeland Security recently published its 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. In a five-page section devoted to immigration DHS calls comprehensive immigration a "top homeland security priority." The report makes repeated reference to a "broken immigration system" that needs fixing, and emphasizes the need for legislation to implement President Obama's "four core objectives for strengthening our immigration system through common-sense immigration reform," in a nutshell, beefing up border security to deter threats from outside, implementing employment verification procedures to prevent exploitation of undocumented workers, establishing a framework for legalizing the 11.5 million living in the U.S. unlawfully, and creating a more agile and streamlined immigration system capable of reuniting families more quickly and giving businesses access to the visas they need to more easily hire foreign-born workers for highly specialized jobs.

Meanwhile, many are expecting President Obama to resort to executive actions to relax enforcement by prioritizing deportations of people already here unlawfully. If Congress won't legislate an earned pathway to citizenship, the reasoning goes, then the President will do everything in his power to slow the removal of persons who might have benefited from the comprehensive reform measure passed by the Senate last year. That bill looks set to expire as the mid-term elections approach and public support for immigration reform wanes.

As I see it, the debate over immigration reform has been dramatically reshaped by the recent surge of young migrants at the border which has led to calls within the Administration for speeding their deportation to send a message that illegal entries will not be tolerated. I fear that the constant focus given to this aspect of immigration will further polarize the debate between right and left and undo much of the progress already made toward achieving a national consensus on the need for immigration reform. I also anticipate that the use of executive actions by President Obama to fill a legislative void will further deepen the riff in Congress and tend to hurt the cause for enacting "common sense" legislation to modernize and streamline our outdated immigration system.

Timothy D. Widman is a Immigration Attorney and the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman, with offices in San Jose and Cupertino.

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