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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Will Obama's Executive Action Make Any Difference in Immigration Reform? Part I

I listened to President Obama's speech about immigration reform and his intended executive actions while driving home in the car from the vet, after seeing X-rays showing that our 9-year old German Shepherd has cancer that has metastasized and so he isn't expected to live long. I offer that information only to suggest that my cynicism toward the speech may have been driven by my depression. As Reuters reported, the main thrust of this actions are as follows:
With 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, Obama's plan would let some 4.4 million who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents remain in the country temporarily, without the threat of deportation. 
Those undocumented residents could apply legally for jobs and join American society, but not vote or qualify for insurance under the president's healthcare law. The measure would apply to those who have been in the United States for at last five years.

An additional 270,000 people would be eligible for relief under the expansion of a 2012 move by Obama to stop deporting people brought illegally to the United States as children by their parents.
Will this really matter? The Economist correctly notes that this won't really change things in any measurable way, because undocumented immigrants already can get jobs and typically have "joined American society" in some way or another because the record-keeping in this country is very loosy-goosy.
As well as its land border with Mexico, one of the reasons that America is so attractive to illegal immigrants in the first place is that it is so easy to build a life here without proper paperwork. The only identification most employers ask for is a social security number, which is easily borrowed. It is perfectly possible to open a bank account—or to survive without one—to rent a home and to pay bills without much identification at all (your correspondent speaks from experience). In many states, it is now even possible to get a temporary driving licence. Large numbers of established migrants mean that there are plenty of people from the same cultural background to help new arrivals find work, housing, wives and husbands...America is arguably uniquely open to people who want to live here. Not just legally, but also culturally and economically. And thank goodness, in your correspondent’s opinion. But Mr Obama’s speech is an inevitable consequence of this. If you make it easy for people who come to America to overstay their visas, find friends and get jobs, then it is inevitable that some will build lives. And then it will be impossible, both practically and morally, to deport them. Thus America will always have illegal immigrants—and nearly every president, eventually, will have to make this sort of speech. All the more reason to make it uplifting then.
Furthermore, as we just saw in the most recent national election, the vast majority of people who could vote, do not, so that's not a big deal, it would seem. And most Americans do not qualify for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, so that may not be such a huge deal, either. In other words, the problem is us, not the migrants. But it is very complicated nonetheless, and I'll continue this thought tomorrow. 

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