WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s televised address to the nation on Thursday may prove the easiest part of his controversial plan to relax US immigration policy. Implementing it will be difficult and many people may never benefit, warn immigration lawyers.
Sources close to the administration say Obama will announce that some parents of US citizens and legal permanent residents are to be given a reprieve from deportation. Up to 5 million people could benefit from the move.
But immigration advocacy groups say they don’t have sufficient resources to provide legal services to their existing clients, never mind the millions of potential new ones. Obama’s proposal is not expected to provide for federal funding for attorneys to guide immigrants through the process.
“If the past is any indication, it’s going to be a significant increase in people asking for legal assistance,” said Karla McKanders, who runs the immigration law clinic at the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville.
The new plan is expected to be similar to Obama’s 2012 executive action, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that halted deportation and granted work permits to immigrants brought illegally to the country as young children.
McKanders said she and her students were already swamped because of DACA. In many parts of the United States, especially rural areas, there are either not enough private immigration lawyers or they are not affordable to most undocumented immigrants.
Only 55 per cent of the estimated 1.2 million young people eligible under DACA have applied, according to an August report by the Migration Policy Institute.