Cleveland Immigration Attorney Margaret Wong: President's Immigration Actions 'Very Timid'

Margaret Wong (
Margaret Wong (
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President Obama last week announced executive action on immigration--an issue showing no new signs of Congressional life. The action is multi-pronged, but observers have said its implementation will likely follow in the steps of DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That allowed a temporary stay and renewable work status for children who were younger than 16 when they illegally entered the country with their parents.

For a perspective on this issue, ideastream's Tony Ganzer spoke with Cleveland immigration attorney Margaret Wong. Previously she represented President Obama's aunt and uncle in immigration issues.

WONG: “What he has proposed actually is very, very timid. He’s not protecting long-time residents who do not have children born in America. He’s not protecting people who have even one DUI. He’s not protecting people who have even minor criminal records. He’s only giving a three-year work permit and after that we don’t know what is going to happen; a temporary reprieve for people who have been here more than five years and have children. He’s not protecting people who came illegally after January 1, 2014, so that cuts out all the people who think because of this executive action, they all came to America, especially the new ones who just came.”

GANZER: “I spent three-and-a-half years in Arizona, and I know how hungry people are for action on immigration on the federal level. I know with the DREAM Act there was a lot of hope with that. Do you think, though, that the piece-meal approach without comprehensive immigration reform with Congressional support, bipartisan support, is this going to harm things more than help maybe at this point?”

WONG: “Actually now, because he talked only about this, he announced it. Right now we have no forms, no directions, no ideas. He talked about three priorities of deportation: that you cannot be a felon; you cannot have a criminal record; if you are a long-time resident. But that’s only a reprieve, it’s not—and that’s what Bush, the two Bushes had been doing. When Bush was here, because of Tiananmen Square in China, he gave more than 100,000 people Green Cards, including J-1. I mean, that’s brave. And I didn’t hear the Republicans at that time complaining about it. Actually this is a very watered-down thing. He’s trying to please the whole world, as a professor. He’s giving the Silicon Valley people, the business people, the chamber people, skilled workers. He’s giving the Latino people something, which is to help—he’s not protecting parents of DACA, which is very, very disappointing. And also gay people would suffer, because most of them they’re not married and they have no children, even though they’re a long time here, because they need the protection and they never really came out. All these people will be left out because most gay people don’t have children. So Obama’s [action] is a very timid thing to please everybody, but everybody is complaining including Democrats.”

GANZER: “You do have an interesting insight in this issue. You did represent President Obama’s aunt and uncle in immigration cases. You were at the White House as this announcement was coming out. What sense do you have from the Administration of what the President’s action means? Do you think this is just a first step, or is this all he can do at this point?”

WONG: “I think there is a sense of relief, that ‘finally we did it.’ But what they don’t know—and in fact the President alluded to that in his presentation, his speech. He’s talking about ‘preaching to the choir,’ he’s talking about ‘now we’ll enjoy this party, with this food, but there is a lot of work to be done.’ There’s a lot of issues, everyday it’s changing, changing, changing, at the speed of the computer, so we need to not stop life, and go on with it.”

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