Looks like the Pen and Phone theory of governance still hasn’t gone out of style. Ian Smith at The Hill has uncovered another “secret memo” coming from the White House that lays out some more improvements to the immigration system which are going to vastly increase the number of coveted work cards for immigrants (including the “undocumented” kind as you’ll see below) which will be in circulation if it goes through. The implications should be fairly obvious.

The Obama administration is about to power up a massive new executive action on immigration and it’s far scarier than anyone could have imagined. Last November, when Homeland Security released its ten memos commandeering immigration policy from Congress, Secretary Johnson included a vague plan aimed at benefiting the tech industry, innocuously titled “Modernizing the Employment-Based Immigrant Visa System.” But a secret memo recently leaked on an immigration law blog now reveals that this ‘modernization’ plan will not only fast-track hundreds of thousands of work permits to employment visa-applicants in violation of longstanding U.S. worker protection laws, but will enable hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens to also receive work permits despite their unlawful status.

The memo in question was discovered by Greg Siskind and it contains some of the usual, bland sounding bureaucratic pablum we’re accustomed to, but with some very big changes buried in the specifics.

  1. USCIS would amend its regulations regarding the revocation or continued validity of approved I-140 petitions in cases where an employer withdraws the petition or terminates its business. Current regulations make such a revocation by USCIS automatic. The new rule would consider these I-140 petitions to remain valid for a beneficiary when “certain criteria are met.”
  2. USCIS would issue a new rule providing employment authorization to beneficiaries (and their derivative spouses and children) of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions.

All of this gets a bit wonky in the details, but here’s the short version. “Guest workers” in the country on a H-1b or similar program must get their employer to sponsor them by filling out an I-140 application. That essentially keeps them in thrall to the employer with their legal status dependent on their continued employment. If they follow the rules and wait in line, they can eventually be approved to change their status to that of a permanent resident alien with a coveted EAD card, allowing them to essentially go or work anywhere. This remains true even after their H-1b expires. Achieving this status currently takes 8 to 10 years while they go through the required background checks, etc.

Under this new set of rules, any guest worker with an approved I-140 can have their “status” upgraded pretty much automatically after a year and get the free pass of having an EAD card. But you might be thinking, well, that’s not so bad. At least it’s employed guest workers who are inside the system legally. Not so fast there, Skippy. As Smith points out, this opens the door to illegal aliens with an incredibly easy side step of the rules.

Perhaps the most striking part of Obama’s move: illegal aliens will also be able to get EADs. All one needs to file an I-140 petition is an official ID; proving lawful presence isn’t required. The thousands of business-owners around the country who knowingly hire illegal aliens can cynically sponsor petitions whether or not the underlying applicant is legal. Ultimately, the USCIS bureaucrats will reject his or her adjustment-of-status application (after 10 plus years), but they’ll still be able to get that golden EAD.

So all you need is an ID card and an employer who isn’t spending all of their time doubling as an ICE agent. And isn’t it convenient that California has been issuing drivers licenses and state ID cards to “undocumented immigrants” faster than they do to citizens? Then all one needs to do is wait for a year without being caught and deported and… poof! You get an EAD card and an essentially permanent get out of jail free card. Oh, and if you read section 2 of the memo above, it applies to spouses and children as well.

This scheme should, by all rights, be under attack from both the Left and the Right. Labor unions should hate it because it’s going to flood the market with tens of thousands of additional unskilled workers competing for jobs. Conservatives should oppose it for obvious reasons. But it probably doesn’t require any action on the part of Congress to do it because… the pen and the phone.