Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Executive Branch will not wait on Congress

If Congress isn't going to do anything about immigration reform this year, then the Executive Branch is not going to wait on them. Yesterday Attorney General Gonzales announced new reforms in the Department of Justice and the immigration courts it oversees through the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times reported that the Department of Justice was responding to complaints from advocates about the streamlining process that former Attorney General John Ashcroft put in place in 1999.

The announcement also comes just a few days after the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University announced the results of their study on immigration judges. In their study of requests for asylum in the United States, they found "a great disparity in the rate at which individual immigration judges declined the applications."

Up until now, Gonzales has been on the sidelines of the immigration debate. Just a few weeks ago, at the end of July, he made a speech about immigration reform in California. In much of his speech, he was speaking for President Bush and he offered reasons to support the Administration's "comprehensive plan". Gonzales started with saying, "The fact is that the federal government needs to take action."

Yet this is not what Congressional majority members are doing: instead over the past several weeks they have sponsored a number of hearings "in the field" and on the Hill. Normally hearings are held before legislation is considered and passed. Instead Congressional majority members, in their effort to push enforcement-only or enforcement-first immigration reform, organized the hearings which will essentially kill reform debate in this congressional session.

Instead Gonzales has shown both responsiveness to construcitve criticism and also initiative when the Legislative Branch is deadlocked in "do-nothing-ness".

Back in July, Gonzales said "And the answer - is that there are no easy answers. And that's all right." Truth is, we need answers and need Congress to listen to immigrants in designing truly comprehensive immigration reform.

ACTION STEP: Contact the Attorney General and thank him for taking steps to reform immigration courts but ask him to do more to ensure their fairness.