Last Friday in Las Vegas, Barack Obama signed an executive order that will prevent 5 million illegal immigrants from being deported; it is also supposed to give them a job.
The president of the U.S. announced his decision in a televised speech from the White House. Still, the historic signature was placed on the order in Nevada, a state with the highest rate of illegal immigration in the whole country — as much as seven percent of its population, while the U.S. average is three percent.
“For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations,” said Obama on Thursday evening. “It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities — people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.”
Republicans, even those few who agree with this diagnosis, decry the order. They hold the view that the issue of 11 million illegal immigrants can only be solved by Congress, whereas Obama decided to act lawlessly and provisionally. He has decided that immigration services and police won’t deport five million, nearly half of the “illegals.” Four million of them are incomers whose child was born in the U.S., so they are parents of a legal American citizen.
“Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?” asked Obama rhetorically.
Until now, it has often been the case that parents were deported whereas their children, as rightful citizens of the U.S., were left behind. In recent years statistics on deportation have been exceptionally high — annually, more than 400 thousand people were deported from the U.S. And that is why defenders of “illegals’” rights bore a grudge against Obama.
The second pardoned group, more than 1 million, are those who illegally arrived in America with their parents, when they were kids. Thus, it’s hard to accuse them of consciously breaking American law. In 2012, Obama issued a decree that suspended their deportation but an age limit was introduced, up to the age of 30. Now, this has been abolished.
We are the Nation of Immigrants
Republicans think that amnesty does not solve the problem of illegal immigration; on the contrary, it will escalate it, because millions of people worldwide are getting the message: You can sneak through the border pretending to be a tourist and then, sooner or later, you will be accepted here.
Obama responds that there is no amnesty. No one from those 5 million people affected by the order is receiving citizenship, the right of permanent residence or social benefits — like, for example, free medical care for the poorest. All of this can be granted only by Congress. In two years’ time, when Obama will move out of the White House, a new president will be able to cancel the amnesty if he or she wishes to.
Yet Obama is hoping that until then, an act will be accepted that will solve the problem once and for all, for what he has been unsuccessfully asking congressmen for years.
On television, Obama was calling for consideration for “strangers:” “We are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in.”
Commentators from the right lament that those elevated words are just a cynical, political game. By his executive action, Obama assured the Democrats millions of votes from Latinos including, for example, children of parents who are not going to be deported. They won’t vote for the Republicans for fear of canceling Obama’s order.
What Obama is Allowed to Do
The debate is being held not only on the topic of immigration but also whether Obama had the right to lawlessly make the decision that resulted in so many groundbreaking repercussions. According to the U.S. Constitution, a president has to ensure that current laws are executed; whereas the order — at first sight — seems to be suspension of the law with respect to 5 million people.
However, the White House released an extensive justification in which we can read that that kind of interpretation is wrong. The president is not suspending deportation, he only “changes the priorities of the immigration services.” Now, they will focus on deporting gang members, criminals and recent illegal immigrants — those who arrived after Jan. 1, 2014 — and on securing the border, to prevent the influx of new ones. Deporting 5 million of those mentioned in the act “stops to be a priority” — for the next three years.
Allegedly, Obama has the right, and even the obligation, to prioritize things as Congress did not give him the budget for deporting all 11 million illegal immigrants. That’s why he can, and even has to, choose whom to deport and whom to let go, “because of lack of resources and possibilities” — although it’s just legal casuistry, as no one in the USA seriously considers deporting 11 million people.
Republicans claim that this explanation is a mockery and thus they promise to challenge the order in court as a flagrant abuse of presidential power. However, most lawyers that commented on the dispute on Friday asserted that the petition has very little chance. Even those who did not agree that Obama behaved in compliance with the Constitution admitted that, formally speaking, he did not infringe the law.
Another argument used against Obama states that 5 million “illegals” will get the right to work — as is foreseen in the order — and they are going to replace American citizens. But there we also find conflicting opinions. Some people claim the opposite: Accepting 5 million “illegals” in the market will help citizens. How? Because nowadays, employees can offer very low wages, knowing they will always find an immigrant to work for half the price. Now, with “illegals” coming out of the shadows, they will be able to work legally, and without fear of being deported, these immigrants will start to demand their rights. Employees will be forced to increase wages, which will also positively influence citizens of the USA.