The First Year of Immigration Policy Under the Obama Administration

Struggling to Turn Principles Into Practice
March 2, 2010

Washington D.C. - The month of March marks the seventh anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is home to the nation's three immigration agencies. It also marks the end of a sweeping internal review ordered by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano - a review which has not been made public. Therefore, in order to assess the first year of immigration policy under the Obama Administration, the Immigration Policy Center releases DHS Progress Report: The Challenge of Reform.

The report compares DHS's record to the "Transition Blueprint," a document delivered to the Obama transition team by immigration policy experts and advocates which focused on administrative improvements to the immigration system.

IPC's overall analysis finds that while DHS struggles towards reform it has failed to meet some key expectations in many of the blueprint areas. The department has engaged thoughtfully and strategically on some issues and has made some fundamental changes in how it conducts its immigration business. However, turning principles into practice has fallen short, and the practical realities for individuals caught up in the system have not necessarily changed for the better.

Ultimately, this first year was both promising and frustrating, a year in which the promise of reform seemed to conflict daily with the dynamics of an entrenched, enforcement-driven culture. For every two steps forward, it seems that the Department takes one step back, inching its way toward a more humane and just system. There is clearly much more that can and should be done at an administrative level. However, without Congressional action on immigration reform, there are limits to how much the system can be changed.

To read the report in its entirety see:
DHS Progress Report: The Challenge of Reform
(IPC Special Report, March 2, 2010)

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