The Spectacle Blog

Leaked Memo: Department of Homeland Security Contemplates Amnesty By Executive Fiat

By on 9.16.10 | 3:23PM

Remember the amnesty memos? The leaked documents that showed officials in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency discussing an Obama administration end-run around Congress to implement an administrative amnesty for untold numbers of illegal immigrants? It turns out that USCIS wasn't alone.

TAS has obtained a draft of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo that sources say eventually made it all the way up to Secretary Janet Napolitano talking about doing much the same thing -- except in much greater technical detail and with more attention to the political ramifications. The idea is that the first phase of a program to legalize illegal immigrants could be implemented by DHS even in the absence of "comprehensive immigration reform." Or, as the memo puts it, by "using administrative measures to sidestep the current state of Congressional gridlock and inertia."

The memo emphasizes registering, fingerprinting, and screening the illegal immigrant population ("excluding individuals who pose a security risk") but the administrative processes envisioned involve giving eligible illegal immigrants work permits and an interim process to "legalize those who qualify and intend to stay here." The memo does acknowledge Congress would have to act to extend permanent lawful residence.

"If going forward with a larger registration program is not possible," the document obtained by TAS says, "we could propose a narrowly-tailored registration program for individuals eligible for relief under the DREAM Act, AgJOBS, or other specifically designed subcategories." The DREAM Act and AgJOBS are pieces of legislation -- targeted amnesties -- that Congress has not voted to pass.

Most of this is consistent with the USCIS memos reported on earlier, except there is a lot more concern over how Congress will react: "The Secretary would face criticism that she is abdicating her charge to enforce the immigration laws. Internal complaints of this type from career DHS officers are likely and may also be used in the press to bolster the criticism."

Like with the USCIS memo, the administration is likely to argue that this just reflects internal deliberations rather than any official policy. And this document is a draft that could have been modified as it moved up the chain of command. More to follow.

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