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article imageOp-Ed: Obama wins big with immigration deal

By Calvin Wolf     Nov 21, 2014 in Politics
President Barack Obama will use his executive authority to delay the deportation of the family members of U.S. citizens, prompting a political battle that may affect the 2016 presidential election.
America is a nation built on immigration. From the Mayflower to the Manhattan Project, immigrants have played pivotal roles in developing our nation and its strengths and traditions. After our initial English stock, we have had waves of immigration from Germany, Ireland, Italy, and eastern Europe. These immigrants initially faced intense prejudice and discrimination before successfully assimilating. Today, the descendants of German, Irish, Italian, Polish, and Jewish immigrants inhabit the halls of power in all branches of government and countless industries.
The latest wave of immigration to America, increasing rapidly since 1965, has come from Latin America. A lengthy land border with Mexico has made this immigration easy...and often undocumented. While immigrants from Europe and Asia were processed through Ellis Island and Angel Island, respectively, immigrants from Latin America could enter the U.S. through no port of call, receiving no paperwork and being counted by nobody. Obviously, this frightens many citizens. We like things to be quantified, calculated, checked, and recorded.
A changing economy means society is also less appreciative of unskilled immigrants. While we desired immigrants from Ireland and southern and eastern Europe to work in urban factories in the north and northeast, and immigrants from China to help build the western Transcontinental railroad, we now prefer capital to labor. We tend to view America's labor pool as "full" and now look at immigrants as "stealing jobs" instead of creating jobs.
Thus, our current debate over "illegal" or "undocumented" immigration. Pretending we do not need their labor, we are more free to focus on the perceived flaws of today's immigrants. Conservatives argue that we must, for our economic survival, limit immigration from Latin America. Liberals argue that we have a historic obligation to support those seeking a better life in America.
President Obama has just used his power of the executive order to halt the deportations of illegal immigrants who are family members of U.S. citizens, reports Politico. The deal, while not amnesty, is supposed to halt these deportations for three years and age restrictions were eliminated for DREAM Act beneficiaries, explains the New York Times. In sum, certain undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, without getting into trouble, will be allowed to apply for the ability to work in the country legally.
Conservatives are, of course, outraged, particularly by the use of the executive order. CNN reports that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) is on a rampage, as are other prominent Republicans. The argue that the president has overstepped his authority and is, as Boehner claims, "ignoring the will of the American people."
However, it appears that Obama has won this round, and rather shrewdly.
First of all, like in the debate over same-sex marriage, compassion wins the day in the long run. Most voters, despite any qualms, will prefer a president who is compassionate toward the immigrant parents and siblings of U.S. citizens to one who is not. While the debate over the economic and social impacts of mass immigration from Latin America still rages, it is undeniable that the president has won more hearts than he has lost.
Secondly, the requirement that applicants for the program pay back taxes is an economic boon rather than bust. While many immigrants-turned-legal-residents may be a short-term drain on public resources, many will be immediate contributors in terms of income taxes. And, given America's aging population, we need an influx of young workers to sustain pension programs and Social Security. If some groups of Americans are unwilling to have more children, then other groups are needed.
Third, conservatives are likely to split themselves over the "stealing our jobs" argument. Conservative business owners may dislike Hispanic immigrants-turned-legal-residents...but will likely enjoy their willingness to work for low wages. Allowing millions of people to suddenly work, legally, for low wages will likely benefit many small businesses. While it may not be good for average real wages, it will certainly split conservative small businesses on the issue, giving more political clout to unified liberals.
Finally, the deal is, like Obamacare, a [perhaps inadvisable] "half-way point" between the current situation and a true solution. Instead of granting amnesty, the Obama administration is simply giving millions of undocumented immigrants the ability to apply for the ability to work in the U.S. legally...not seek citizenship itself. The plan is also temporary. On the whole, it is a feel-good action that could easily be erased by the next president. This thwarts some conservative anger in the short-term and creates an incentive for apathetic liberals to turn out strong at the ballot box in 2016.
All things considered, Obama has scored a solid political victory.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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