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
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 U.S. to an illegal immigrant
- The illegal mother and/or father of that child that is born in the U.S.
- DREAMers -- children born outside the U.S. but brought to the country illegally by their parents
All of them must be in good standing with the law. They must have no criminal records or ties to terrorism. None on this list will have access to social welfare or any other form of government assistance.
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. There are also people from Asia who stowaway on cargo ships and those who 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)
According to the State Department, every fiscal year the U.S. government issues a total of 140,000 work visas (before Obama's executive order). This number is usually maxed out fairly quickly each year. Tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc. have been trying to get the number raised for years as they have job openings here in the U.S. that cannot be completely filled by American workers because of a lack of training in computer sciences. These companies have also threatened to take these jobs elsewhere if they cannot be filled here, thus further depleting a tax base. These are people wanting to come to the U.S. legally to work and pay taxes.
Senate Democrats passed a comprehensive immigration bill during the last congressional 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 it is 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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