Analysis of Immigration Executive Order

Illegal immigration has once again been thrust into the spotlight by President Obama’s speech to the nation about his Executive Order on the subject. It had mostly taken a backseat during the election as neither side really wanted to talk about any issue facing the nation.

This post is not to say whether the Executive Order is good or bad… or even legal.  The pundits are already out spinning the story as are Republican lawmakers in Congress. So let’s look at what is being done by this executive order.

  • Increased border security which has been increased throughout the Obama presidency
  • Increases the number of work visas for skilled workers so that more may apply and come to work here
  • It allows certain illegal immigrants a temporary reprieve from being deported but only specific categories

 

Temporary Reprieve, Not Amnesty

I will start with the last point since it will be the one with the most criticism.  The Executive Order is not amnesty. It does not grant citizenship or even permanent residency.  It is a temporary reprieve from being deported and gives the people an attempt to get their immigration status corrected.  It only applies to a specific group of people.

  • A child born in the US to an illegal immigrant
  • The illegal mother and/or father of that child that is born in the US
  • DREAMers — children born outside the US but brought to the country illegally by their parents

All of them must be in good standing with the law.  No criminal records or ties to terrorism.  None will have access to social welfare or any other form of government assistance.

 

Border Security

And speaking of links to terrorism, let’s dispel another Republican talking point.  According to the Department of Homeland Security, in an article for POLITICO, there have been no terrorists captured coming across the Mexican border.  However, two were captured trying to cross the Canadian border into the US.

Our focus tends to always be the Mexican border when this issue also applies to the country that we share the largest border with… Canada.  This also concerns with people from Asia that stowaway on cargo ships, and even those that come up from Caribbean islands though Cubans have a special category all their own. (Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot)

But what about overall border security along the border?  President Obama claims that he has more border patrol agents on the ground than any previous administration. (Politifact)  There has been an increase in border patrol agents throughout his administration, but it’s a result of a 2007 bill passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress during the Bush administration.  (Washington Post)  The President can take full credit though for having deported more illegal immigrants than any previous administration. (Pew Research)

 

Skilled Workers

According to the State Department, every fiscal year the US government issues a total of 140,000 work visas (before Obama’s executive order).  This number is usually maxed out fairly quickly each year.  Companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc. have been trying to get the number raised for years as they have job openings here in the US that cannot be filled by enough American workers as there are just not enough in the computer sciences.  These companies have also threatened to take the jobs elsewhere if they cannot be filled here thus further depleting a tax base.  These are people wanting to come to the US legally to work and pay taxes.

 

Senate Democrats passed a comprehensive immigration bill during the last session.  House Republicans passed their own version of immigration reform bills.  Neither chamber took up the legislation of the other and there was no conference committee to resolve the differences.  The issue is now in play.  Maybe the new Congress can actually pass immigration reform and send it to the President.  Any new legislation would override the Executive Order.

Executive Orders aren’t defined in the Constitution though the Supreme Court has ruled that they are legal so long as they are used to enforce the laws passed by Congress.  I would encourage the administration to inform us which laws they are enforcing with this Executive Order on immigration.  As for the rest of the partisan rhetoric, I think we’ve dealt with it.

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The Law Regarding Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors

Since October of 2013, 52,000 children from Central America have been apprehended crossing the US-Mexico border illegally.  They are coming here by themselves.  It’s just one more piece in the larger immigration debate that seems to have quieted down until after the November election.

Republicans in Congress are quick to point the finger at the Obama administration.  Two years ago, the Obama administration decided to defer deporting certain young immigrants who met certain criteria and have been living in the states continuously since June 2007.  But as usual with partisan rhetoric, they are missing half of the debate.

FT_14_06_06_UnaccompaniedChildren_mapIn 2008, Congress passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which the Senate passed by unanimous consent, and was signed by President George W. Bush.  Though the law’s main intent deals with human trafficking, it did contain a section that deals with children arriving in the US illegally unaccompanied by an adult.

Children from Mexico are returned immediately, as they would be if they were an adult apprehended illegally entering the US.  However, children from a non-contiguous nation such as those in Central America have a different process.  The children must be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services which is in charge of their care, finds them safe housing, and apprises them of their legal rights as their immigration cases are decided.  Deportation proceedings can take time as immigration courts are generally backed up.

Republicans, who in recent weeks have been claiming that the Obama administration is not enforcing the laws passed by Congress, are actually demanding that the President not enforce the TVPRA and send the children back to their home countries immediately without any deportation hearings as would happen if they had come from Mexico.

Last week President Obama signaled a willingness to do so but only if Congress modified the TVPRA to allow him to do so.  The leadership of both the House and the Senate do not seem to be interested in changing the current law, and as of July 7, the Obama administration has backtracked a little though it still would like more authority to act.  Until the law is changed, the children that have come here have to go through the process outlined by the TVPRA.  President Obama does plan to ask Congress for an extra $2 billion in extra funds to deal with the situation.

In the debate surrounding these children, it should be noted that they are not refugees or seeking asylum which would be completely different.  Asylum and refugee are special legal protections only available to people have fled their home countries out of fear and cannot return and can only be sought once they have entered the US.  There are strict requirements that a person must show in order to be granted those protections.

And though we debate this issue now in regards to Mexicans and those from Central America countries, this is not the first time we as a nation have had this discussion.  In the mid 19th-century, it was over Irish immigrants.  Most were processed legally through Ellis Island but the same arguments that were used then are still being used today against legal and illegal immigrants.

In the end, the TVPRA is the law that was passed by Congress that President Obama is to enforce.  If Republicans in Congress have a problem with that, then they need to change the law instead of telling the President not to enforce it.  Isn’t that the problem they have with him anyway?  This doesn’t come as a result of a DREAM Act.  It comes from congressional inability to deal with our broken immigration system in terms of those wanting to come here legally, and what to do with those that enter illegally.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.”  Regardless for now, as we detain these illegal immigrant children, we need to treat them humanely until they are eventually returned to their countries of origin.  If Republicans want this process to be sped up, then they need to revise the TVPRA to allow it to be done.

Boston Common

The Politicizing Of Boston With Immigration Reform

It seems only fitting that I write this post today.  On April 19, 1775, the first battles of the American Revolution occurred at Lexington and Concord.  It would be the start of a long, drawn-out war with Great Britain that would officially end with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  This past week, the eyes of the entire nation have once again been on the city of Boston… what was generally considered the cradle of the rebellion against the British monarchy.  This time, though, it is because of act of violence that left three dead and over a hundred people injured.  Authorities do have suspects.  One of them is already deceased while the other remains at large at the time of this writing.  However, I’m not actually here to discuss the bombing or the suspects directly, but an indirect consequence that all of this is having on a different discussion that is just now taking center stage in Washington… immigration reform.

deskepticon_1How this connection is made is quite simple.  The family of the suspects is from the Russian republic of Chechnya in the Caucuses region… an area that has been fighting with the Russian government for independence.  However, both suspects were born in the country of Kyrgyzstan.  One of the brothers came to the US in 2002 while the other arrived in 2004.  Both were considered refugees from Chechnya.  The youngest of the brothers had become a permanent resident of the US in 2011.  This part of the immigration debate actually has to do with legal immigration instead of the illegal part that we so often discuss.  The Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, tweeted, “Part of the ‘national conversation’ about Boston should include whether we suspend Muslim immigration to the U.S. NOW.”  And liberal columnist for the The Atlanta Journal – Constitution, Cynthia Tucker, tweeted, “This smacks of the sort of terrorism that has plagued Britain, committed by legally-admitted but alienated residents. #BostonMarathon”  Though both sides of the political spectrum seem to have some agreement with this, both couldn’t be farther from the truth in this debate.

By Fischer’s own comment, we are to completely stereotype an entire group of people and forbid them from coming to this country and living as ordinary, law-abiding citizens that contribute to our country and to our society because of the actions of these two men.  Somehow, there seems to be a double standard to this on a couple of different levels.  It’s easy to find a scapegoat in this situation… to blame all Muslims and immigrants (even those that are non-Muslim) for the violent acts of these two suspects.  However, one must wonder what Mr. Fischer would say be saying if they were Christian and from somewhere in Europe.  Yes, they do exist, too.  And contrary to what Ms. Tucker tweeted, Britain’s problems haven’t always been the influx of Muslim immigrants.  It used to be the IRA (the Irish Republican Army) which was deemed a terrorist organization that bombed innocent people, and they were Christians.  So should we not let Irish people immigrate to the US… or Christians for that matter… in case they might have terrorist intentions?  I don’t see anyone speaking up in favor of this.  We tend to judge those types of immigrants on an individual basis, so why shouldn’t we do that with Muslims still?  What about Italian immigrants?  It used to be that Italian immigrants made up parts of the mafia that would go around terrorizing the cities in which they lived.  Should they be excluded from immigrating here because of past mistakes of people they have no connection with?  Again, I don’t see too many people speaking up in favor of this either.

And as much as people would like to infuse the debate on immigration reform into the Boston Marathon bombings… thus politicizing it, these same people are still forgetting about American citizens (people that are born here as US citizens) that commit acts of terrorism.  We are turning a blind eye to this part of the conversation.  If we are to deny an entire group of people legal immigration status because of the action of two people, should we not stereotype our own citizens with the same levels of hatred?  The Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 were bombed by Eric Robert Rudolph.  He was an American… not an immigrant.  He belonged to the Christian Identity movement which is a militant, racist, and anti-Semitic organization.  Though not an immigrant, should his acts be held against other Christians?  What about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing?  Should white men not be allowed to rent moving trucks because of the horrible act this man committed?  In both of these questions, any rational person that is not speaking with absolute fear would answer ‘no.’

WRD - refugeeThe problem with stereotyping a group of people is that it is only done out of fear and has no place in rational, logical discussions.  Fischer went on to tweet later in the day, “I think we can safely say that Rubio’s amnesty plan is DOA. And should be. Time to tighten, not loosen, immigration policy.”  So again, his thought process is that the violent and hateful acts should also be placed on other legal immigrants just because they are immigrants.  I would also hazard a bet that he also speaks out heavily on illegal immigration.  The problem with that is that we can’t deal with illegal immigration unless we deal with the broken legal immigration system.  And by tightening it to the point to where he’d possibly be satisfied, it would probably only exacerbate the illegal immigration situation.  In this particular instance, you can’t have it both ways.   And he also forgets one tidbit of additional information… that these two suspects were refugees.  The US has a different set of policies when it comes to refugees from war-torn areas than just people wanting to immigrate to our country.  Should we be stopping all refugees from entering our country?  While the Bosnian War raged on during the 1990s, the US took in thousands of Bosnian refugees.  I live in a city where many of these refugees have settled.  They are peaceful, law-abiding people that have worked hard to be a part of our society.  Since coming here, they have opened up new “mom and pop” businesses and have worked to add their culture to our own.  If a couple of them had been bad seeds in the way that the two suspects in Boston have been, does that mean we should have stopped allowing them to come into our country?  Absolutely not.  And what about the ones that were already here?  Would we have kicked them out, or would they be allowed to stay?  The problem with stereotyping as I am seeing done, as it is being injected into the immigration debate, is that it doesn’t hold up in an actual rational debate.  When people start speaking (or tweeting) this utter-nonsense, it just shows that they are afraid.  Terrorism lives on fear… but it can’t win when there is courage.  And one of the best things I saw that day in Boston was the courage of those who rushed toward the scene to help those who needed it the most.  We must always be diligent, but we must not give in to fear.  Terrorism can’t win so long as there is courage to combat the fear, and stereotypes can’t win so long as there is logical, rational thought to defeat it.

UPDATE:
The second suspect is now in police custody.  Keep in mind, he is still considered a suspect.  Under the US Constitution, he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  The task now falls onto the state to get him convicted.

LINKS:
Point-Scoring on Immigration – Slate
Questions from Boston – POLITICO

Immigration Reform: The Proposal

Immigration reform is one of the hot topics since last year’s presidential election.  Both sides have known that it needs to be done and have known for years.  The difference is that now both sides are willing to talk to each other about it and attempt to work toward a major reform of the system.  What brought this issue out from obscurity is that Republicans now see that they have to move on some of this otherwise they will find it increasingly difficult to win any presidential election.  And this is no piecemeal attempt but rather a major piece of legislation.  Just over a week ago, a group of eight Senators unveiled their proposal for a complete immigration reform bill.  Note that this is only their proposals as a group and not the actual piece of legislation that has to be written.

american-immigration

2008 Immigration Statistics

So what is this proposal?  The first and major part to this is securing and enforcing the border.  This part is absolutely essential to grab broad Republican support.  Is it a good idea?  Probably.  If we can’t secure our borders, then we don’t stem the tide and could risk this being an issue again.  And we need to know who is coming and going from our country.  In 1986, an immigration reform bill was passed by the Reagan administration that offered amnesty to the illegal immigrants that were living here then.  It also contained a section about enforcing our borders.  However, the border enforcement never happened and the amnesty did.  The result… here we sit again debating the same issue with the same points.  Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is part of the eight Senators, tied the two together in this proposal.  That the pathway to citizenship for those living here illegally would not happen this time until the borders are secured and enforced.  The problem?  There’s no definition to what secured and enforced actually is.  This is something Congress would have to put in the actual legislation, and it would have to make sense and be feasible with set goals that can be realistically achieved; otherwise, it could bring down the rest of the legislation.  Even Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has come out saying that Senator Rubio is being naive thinking that this will work when it is no different than 1986.

As I I just mentioned in the previous paragraph, the proposal does contain a pathway to citizenship for those living here illegally (if the borders are secured first).  The illegal immigrants would be forced to register with the government, undergo a background check, pay a fine and back taxes in order to just obtain legal status on a probationary status.  And though on a legal status at that point, they would still not have access to federal benefits.  It’s only after the enforcement measures are in place that they’d have to go through even more steps such as learning English and taking civics classes, more background checks in order to obtain permanent residency.  And the Senate proposal states that they would not have preferential treatment over legal immigrants that are playing by the rules.  As for actual citizenship, that would be left up to the individual to apply for.  How does this work in the real world?  It does sound good in theory, but it will all hinge on getting the people to come out from the shadows which could be decided on if they can afford to pay the fee and back taxes.  We have to remember that they haven’t had to pay anything yet while living here, so they must be convinced that it is in their best interest to do so.

There would be an exception to the above paragraph and that would be seasonal agricultural workers and those that came into the country illegally as children.  The Guest Worker Program for seasonal agricultural workers is nothing new.  It was proposed in 2007 by President George W. Bush.  It never gained much traction as congressional Democrats were opposed to it, which included then-Senator Barack Obama.  Now Democrats and President Obama are singing a different tune when it comes to this.  Why you might ask?  Political points in the end as they would get the credit for it.  Some might say that this is illegal immigrants taking the jobs of Americans, but I still don’t see many Americans lining up to work in the agricultural fields.

immigration_to_the_USChildren brought here illegally is also not a new topic.  The DREAM Act, a Democratic piece of legislation to address this issue, died in the last session of Congress.  Even Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) came up with a piece of legislation in the last session that was very similar to the Democratic plan, but it didn’t gain any traction.  (DREAM A Little Dream)  In the new Senate proposal, children would not be held responsible for the actions of their parents.  There are two ways to look at this issue.  One would be to keep them out of the system though them being here is not any fault of their own.  As children, we don’t really get much of a choice in where are parents live.  We just have to go along.  The other side is something that the state of Texas did… and this is with a Republican legislature and Texas Governor Rick Perry’s support.  It also hurt him in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.  They allowed illegal children to apply for college and get in-state tuition and financial assistance.  We might be saying that the tuition money should have gone to American children, but let me step outside that box for just a moment.  Without an education, these children are more likely to be on the streets and into crime thus they would probably end up in our prisons where we, as taxpayers, pay for them.  Even with a basic education, they might get a low-paying job.  Again, we would still end up paying for them in some form.  But now, let’s give them a college education and give them the ability to compete for a high-paying job.  Now they can pay for themselves and pay into the system.  Yes, we have a high unemployment rate in this country.  People need work.  But the best person for the job should be getting the job.

There is one last major part to all of this.  Without it, all of this will be in vain.  There has to be a complete overhaul of the legal immigration system.  It’s like trying to get rid of a weed.  If you just cut it off, it grows back.  You have to pull it out by the root in order to get rid of it.  Our legal immigration system is the root of this entire issue.  It must be completely overhauled… which includes streamlining the system and getting rid of the cap on how many the government will approve in a year.  That number is usually filled by the end of January.  Microsoft is but one company that cannot fill all its current job openings because Americans just aren’t fitting them, and they can’t bring in others because the government won’t approve their visas.  Now yes, this is a failure of our education system not preparing students for the jobs of today, but it is also a failure of our immigration system.  Rather than have these jobs sit empty, companies should be allowed to bring workers here legally (when there are not enough Americans to fill these jobs).  If we allowed legal immigrants to come into this country for a job, then they would be paying taxes as well which is beneficial to the country as a whole.   That is only part of the legal immigration problem.  One of the biggest hurdles is the amount of time it takes to get permission to come here legally.  In a blog written in 2011, Perfect Strangers, I wrote that according to the Immigration Department, it takes almost 25-years for someone coming from Mexico to immigrate to the US legally.  Who is going to wait that long?  It should not even take one year to be either approved or denied.  The problem is that illegal immigration becomes easier to do with all the dysfunction that comes with attempting to do it legally.  If we really want to start curbing illegal immigration, then we have to make legal immigration simpler.

It is important to remember that this was only a proposal by these eight Senators (4-Democrats and 4-Republicans).  We will have to wait and see what the actual legislation is and then determine if it will fly high or fall flat on its face.  The basic mechanisms are there for it to be something good, but it will come down to the details, and we will have to wait and see what the end result will be.  Also keep in mind that just because something sounds good on paper doesn’t mean that it will work in the real world.  We need a piece of legislation that will work in reality… something that is enforceable and doable.

SIDENOTE:
A group of House members has been meeting secretly to try to forge their own legislation on this issue.  As of the writing of this blog, no details have emerged.  (POLITICO)

LINKS:
Senate Group Reaches Immigration Deal” – POLITICO
David Vitter: Marco Rubio ‘Nuts’ on Immigration” – POLITICO
Pitfalls That Could Stop an Immigration Deal” – POLITICO

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