Immigration Reform Breakdown

Here are some talking points to think about with respect President Obama’s immigration reforms as described in his address to the nation on November 20,2014.

  1. 3.7 million illegal residents who are the parents of legal U.S. residents will be able to “come out of the shadows,” as President Obama put it, and apply for protected status that would prevent the U.S. from deporting them … but only for three years from the date that their applications are approved.  No one knows what happens to them after that.
  2. The legal U.S. resident children of illegal immigrant parents must have been in the United States for at least five years.
  3. By taking this action, President Obama has reduced the work load for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) by at least 50 percent, giving them more time to find and deport illegal aliens who are also criminals, rather than deporting law abiding families.  Under the current rules, the INS had no ability to discriminate between the law-abiding and the criminal immigrants because they have been operating on a “first found-first deported basis.”  Under the new rules, families and individuals with no criminal records would be moved to the bottom of the deportation list; criminals and newly arrived illegal immigrants would move to the top.
  4. Some analyses of the President’s proposals suggest that anyone who has entered the country illegally within the past five years would not be eligible for this program, which raises the question of how an illegal immigrant can document how long they have been in the United States since they don’t have bank accounts, aren’t paying taxes and often don’t have leases, driver’s licenses or utility bills to prove occupancy.
  5. Under the new rules, illegal immigrants have not been given either permanent legal status or a path to citizenship.
  6. Because this was accomplished by an executive order rather than act of Congress, the new rules could be reversed by the next president, putting those who come forward in response to what amounts to limited amnesty at a greater risk of deportation under a Republican president opposed to this type of immigration reform.
  7. Children brought the United States illegally can apply for protection under an expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but that program will now be limited to children who came into the United States since 2010. The previous limited allowed illegal immigrants to apply if they had lived in the United States since 2007.  If it is difficult for adult illegal immigrants to prove when they arrived, it is even more difficult for children to do so.
  8. The political ramifications of the executive order may cement the immigrant voting block behind the eventual Democratic candidate for president in 2016. Since President Obama’s executive order could be countermanded by a Republican successor, the softening support from immigrant voting blocks will harden but support from the black community may soften because the black community often views new immigrants as competitors.
  9. In the face of the Democratic president’s immigration reform, Republican efforts to further restrict access to the vote in minority communities may intensify.  Since, by definition, the newly protected immigrants cannot vote, one has to look instead at the voting block who may sympathize with the newly protected immigrants.  There are almost 10 million Latinos in the United States who are eligible to vote but have never registered to do so. In the 2014 election, Democrats earned 62 percent of the Latino vote in 2014, down from the 68 percent in 2012, but up from the 60 percent  in 2012.  Ten million votes – in the right places – would virtually ensure a Democratic victory in 2016, making it almost imperative for the Republican Congress to steal Obama’s wind by passing a better immigration reform law.
  10. The Department of Homeland Security, following the president’s lead, is discontinuing its highly controversial Secure Communities program, which set up immigration checkpoints in cities well away – sometimes by as much as 50 miles to selectively stop people en route to demand identity papers, something heretofore almost unheard of in the United States. Instead, Homeland Security will focus its efforts on a new Priority Enforcement program designed to identify and deport illegal immigrants who are also known felons, a program much favored by Republican legislators.

 

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