On Nov. 20, Barack Obama decided to use one of the tools that presidents of Mexico’s neighboring country have at their disposal to change any domestic policy, or for war-related issues: the so-called executive order. While it has been said that he should have done it earlier, what seems to be clear is that he wanted to try to convince Republicans of the importance of transforming immigration policy, and agreeing on a comprehensive immigration reform.
Following a strategy of searching for consensus, he accepted conducting a deportation policy of such magnitude — 2 million people — that he was called deporter-in-chief. He was asked to strengthen the border if he wanted the immigration reform discussed, and he did this as well, incrementing the budget by 24 percent in 2012 to reach $18 billion for fighting immigration on the border (Papademetrious), and the number of border patrol was increased to 21,391. That is, he kept fulfilling Republican demands, but without the slightest success, and that drove him to make the decision that has provoked the furious wrath of his Republican adversaries, who claim that the president is "poisoning the well," that it's "like waving a red flag in front of a bull," and that this time, the immigration reform will remain in limbo for good.
It appears that Republicans will not be able to do much to stop this executive order, even more so because Obama proposes a strategy based on family values — i.e. the majority of beneficiaries will be the parents of U.S. citizens, and the president has the right of veto.
It is important to find an explanation for such a "senseless" conservative posture, for there is no doubt they know U.S. society is aging: It is below replacement level — 2.09 percent — a demographic situation with negative effects, as a lagging labor market could slow down economic growth. The Chinese know this. They have radically changed their demographic policy, and now advocate for families to have two children, instead of one, facing the stunning reduction of fertility rates, which they partly blame for the decline in economic growth. Technological innovations do not always make up for the lack of available workers, as this is not applicable in all fields.
On the other hand, universities, with their extremely high cost, hinder the access of many young people to higher education, and the completion rate is one of the lowest within the framework of Organization for Econoimc Cooperation and Development countries. Furthermore, professions that require economic growth, such as math, engineering, sciences and technology, are lagging. All this has generated a significant immigration flow of highly qualified people to the United States, coming from every corner of the world, and for whom there are many opportunities. The countries of origin of these workers face a so-called brain drain; however, they do little to address this huge loss.
Even though it is a respite for those 5 million undocumented workers, we must not forget it is a temporary measure; there are still 6 million undocumented immigrants who will remain in a legal limbo. If we recall what happened back in 1986 with the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which regularized nearly 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, there were then over 1.5 million undocumented immigrants who also remained outside regularization, which means that, for some reason or other, there are always significant quantities of undocumented workers left out. Why?
The reason is that it is convenient for employers and their corporations, as we are talking about workers who are highly beneficial for America’s economy, hence, their resistance to approve a comprehensive immigration reform. The huge administrative vulnerability of these workers goes hand in hand with huge business profits. The industries that these immigrants are incorporated into are generally very risky, such as poultry, meat, crab pulping, agriculture, construction, service, and so on. Wages are much lower than what they would be if the immigrants were native workers. Now, the new regularized workers can demand better pay: They are legal. Therefore, we can understand why there is a significant number of undocumented immigrants who have been left out, and not only this, but why more will keep arriving, for lower unit labor costs are good for profit.
It is important for the working class as a whole to understand that neoliberal strategy has been a frontal attack against every worker through the race to the bottom policy, which explains the downward trend in real wages in the U.S. from the 1990s to date. Immigrants are used simply as scapegoats to divert attention from the real enemy of the working class.
Transforming the harmful current conditions and achieving success requires not only incorporating, but also understanding the situation of the most vulnerable members of present societies: immigrants, the ones who, by no fault of their own, suffer alienation from their families, their communities. Let's remember Simone Weil's words, “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul."