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Mayors push Obama for faster immigrant amnesty approvals

Illegal immigrants should get faster approvals of their temporary amnesty applications and the Obama administration in its final days should use its powers to grant even more stays of deportation for illegal immigrants from struggling countries, the mayors of the nation’s biggest cities said in a letter Thursday to President Obama.

The mayors added their voices to those of immigrant rights activists across the country, who in recent weeks have pleaded with Mr. Obama to do all he can to help illegal immigrants before turning the reins over to President-elect Donald Trump, who’s expected to take a much harder line.

Activists have asked Mr. Obama to pardon illegal immigrants, particularly the young adult illegal immigrants known as Dreamers, but the White House has ruled that out, saying that tool doesn’t fit the situation.

Mayors didn’t ask for a pardon, but said Mr. Obama’s foremost priority should be to speed up processing for Dreamers to be admitted to his 2012 deportation amnesty policy, which grants a two-year stay of removal and issues work permits to illegal immigrants 30 and under who were brought to the U.S. as children.

Mr. Trump has vowed to roll back that policy, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, but some analysts expect him to stop new processing but leave existing permits in force.

The mayors said Mr. Obama should speed as many people through the renewal process now so they can earn a new two-year reprieve.

“We call upon your administration to accept early renewal applications for current DACA holders to extend temporary protections for them,” the mayors wrote.

They also asked Mr. Obama to do more to protect the personal information the illegal immigrants have turned over to the administration, including addresses, fearing they could be used as target lists for deportation under Mr. Trump.

As of Sept. 30, 752,154 people have been approved for at least one two-year term of DACA. Most of those have been in the program since near the beginning, and have already had to renew once — nearly all renewal applications have been approved.

The backlog in cases stood at nearly 120,000 at the end of September, with more than 46,000 of those still first-time applications and the rest renewals.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency charged with processing the applications, did not provide answers Thursday to questions about whether it would be possible to speed up applications in the way the mayors were asking.

The agency also didn’t explain why the backlog of applications has grown — more than doubling over the last year.

The most recent data shows between 5,000 and 6,000 people file new initial applications each month, while more than 20,000 are seeking to renew existing amnesties each month.

The mayors thanked Mr. Obama for canceling a program the George W. Bush administration designed to track Muslim men. It was set up in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but it was quickly curtailed. The Obama administration discontinued it in 2011, then finally took it off the books last week.

And the mayors asked the president to extend “Temporary Protected Status,” which is another form of mini-amnesty, to Haitians, Ecuadorians and others whose home countries are suffering from recent disasters.

Some immigrant rights advocates have called on Mr. Obama to go even further and extend TPS to illegal immigrants in the U.S. who came from Central America, fleeing violence and poverty.


Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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