National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Blog & Updates

Getting Down to Business

January 22, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

Proving that he intends to fulfill his campaign promise of change, President Obama has not wasted a single minute since he took office as President on Tuesday. As reported by The Associated Press, just moments after the swearing-in ceremony was finished, the White House issued a memorandum, “to put the brakes on all pending regulations that the Bush administration tried to push through in its waning days.” (“Regulations put on hold by new chief”, January 21, 2009)

Many advocacy groups let out a sigh of relief that some of the most egregious of Bush’s midnight regulations – including the regulatory changes that would weaken wage and worker protections for H2A agricultural guest workers – may now be revisited or reversed.

The new Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, isn’t sitting on her hands either. As reported by Congressional Quarterly- Homeland Security:

“Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano began making her presence felt Wednesday, issuing five action directives related to what she called one of the department’s “primary missions” — protection.


“One of my top priorities is to unify this department and to create a common culture,” Napolitano said in a statement. “These action directives are designed to begin a review, evaluation and dialogue between the various functions of this department and me. I look forward to receiving the information and to working with the offices and agencies involved to make DHS a more effective and a more efficient department.”


Going forward, Napolitano plans to issue action directives on areas including preparedness, response, recovery and immigration.” (New Secretary Seeks Information to Begin Departmental Review, January 21, 2009)

Secretary Napolitano’s actions on her first-day-at work are a welcome signal that she understands the need to set a new tone in the Department of Homeland Security, and to restore accountability and integrity to the agency.   The need for comprehensive overhaul of our immigration system has been voiced time and time again by immigrant rights groups; including over 1,200 organizations that recently endorsed a sign-on letter to the new Administration outlining the priorities for immigration reform:

“The urgency for reform cannot be overstated. Over the last eight years, immigrants and their families, employers and workers alike, have suffered from our nation’s inability to find common ground on the issue of immigration reform.


Unless and until we recalibrate our policies, all Americans’ rights will be at risk, our communities will be divided and the power of our nation’s fundamental principle of E Pluribus Unum compromised.


Now is the time to turn the page on the failed immigration policies of the last eight years.” (Immigration Reform Sign-on Letter, January 16, 2009)

But that’s not all. The new administration’s commitment to improving our immigration system has already been listed in the White House agenda on their  website.

“Improve Our Immigration System: Fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.”

“Bring People Out of the Shadows: Support a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.”

All signs are pointing in the same direction that President Obama intends to keep his promise to pursue genuine solutions to the problems facing the American people and will move us towards a new era of recognizing that immigration is not a source of weakness for America, but that, “our patchwork heritage is our strength”.

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