The President’s Action on Immigration: What it Does, Why we Support it, and What’s Still Left to Do
For far too long, millions of undocumented immigrants who work hard and contribute to our economy and their communities have lived in fear. Fear of being discovered. Fear of being separated from their families and their homes. Fear of not being able to work and provide for their families. Thankfully, some of them will no longer have to.
President Obama’s executive action issued yesterday will stop the deportation of up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, finally allowing them to come out of the shadows and stop living in fear. Nearly 3.7 million of the affected immigrants are parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and who have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years. In addition to no longer having to worry about being pulled away from their children – with obvious horrible consequences for the children left behind – many of them will get work permits, allowing them to work legally and travel within the country, get better jobs, and lift their families out of poverty. In some states, they’ll be able to get driver’s licenses and professional certificates, further increasing their chances of getting better-paying jobs.
The President’s action also extends protections to nearly 300,000 more of the so-called DREAMers – undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. This is an expansion of the President’s 2012 action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has already helped hundreds of thousands of young adults to stay in the country they grew up in and allowed families to stay together. The new action lets those who came to this country no later than 2010 qualify, and eliminates the current age cut-off of 30.
These protections are huge for our immigrant neighbors. Already, more than 2 million immigrants have been removed from the U.S. during President Obama’s time in office. Families have been split apart. His action yesterday is a critical step towards stopping the recurrence of this tragedy.
This move will also help our economy by increasing payroll tax revenues by billions of dollars and decreasing the billions of dollars we spend deporting hardworking immigrants who pose no threats to our safety or security. It will also improve wage and labor protections for these workers.
Unfortunately, the executive action does not provide any permanent change in the immigration status of those affected, nor does it provide them with a pathway to citizenship. It is disappointing that the President did not provide relief for the parents of the Dreamers, who will not be covered unless they have other citizen or legal resident children. And immigrants should be able to buy health insurance through the exchanges, something still not possible under the President’s action. That’s why Congress needs to take up comprehensive immigration reform to expand the protections announced yesterday and cement them into law. More than a year after the Senate passed (bipartisan) sweeping reforms, the House still refuses to act.
In fact, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said Republicans would fight the executive action “tooth and nail.” Exactly how they’ll do that remains to be seen, though there’s quite a bit of talk about holding hostage the funding bill that Congress needs to pass by Dec. 11 or trying to add poison pills to it that would derail the implementation of the President’s action. It hasn’t always been this way; as the Associated Press recently pointed out, both Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush took similar action to allow undocumented immigrants to stay, with Bush Sr. giving relief to more than 40 percent of the undocumented population in the country at the time. In fact, every president since Eisenhower has taken executive action to address immigration. So why is it such a partisan flame-thrower now?
Please take a minute to send an email to President Obama thanking him for taking action, and tell Congress that instead of standing in the way of implementation, they should get to work passing comprehensive immigration reform. Our country desperately needs it, and voters support it. I applaud President Obama’s action as a much-needed first step that will improve the lives of millions, albeit temporarily. Now it’s Congress’ turn to finish the job and ensure millions of our neighbors no longer have to live in fear.