Fawn Johnson – National Journal
Immigration-reform activists aren’t supposed to talk publicly about a Plan B. They can’t, or won’t, answer questions from the media about what they will do if no bill passes this year to legalize the undocumented population. But as August wears on and there is no clear sense of what the House will do on immigration, some are starting to speak out.
“There are groups that are for immigration reform no matter what. Then there are groups like us, grassroots…. We have the other track,” said Adelina Nicholls, the executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. “The other track is Barack Obama.”
The idea behind the “other track” is to freeze the current undocumented population in place through an administrative order, give them work permits, and hope for a better deal under the next president, with the hope that he or she is a Democrat. It’s a significant gamble, but some advocates—particularly those outside of the Washington legislative bartering system—argue that it’s better than what they stand to see under the legislation being discussed now.
Many advocates have been discussing Plan B quietly for months, but they have kept a disciplined public message solely focused on supporting a comprehensive immigration bill in Congress. Even if they are uncomfortable with some of the bill’s provisions (like, say, excluding anyone who has been convicted of petty theft from legalization), advocates don’t want to appear fractured before a group of politicians who are wary about voting for anything that gives unauthorized immigrants legal status. As soon as reluctant lawmakers smell dissension in the ranks, they flee.
The Obama administration is different. It has already flexed its muscle and shown that it is willing to exert authority to stop the deportation of hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth through its deferred-action program announced last year. The immigrant community argues that there is no reason that this administrative authority cannot expand further to include other “low priority” candidates for deportation—i.e., parents of “Dreamers” or parents of children who are citizens because they were born here, people who are employed, people who are caregivers, and so on.