Without Immigration Reform, Relief from Deportation

It is somewhat contradictory. While President Barack Obama announced an executive action to prevent the deportation of the largest number of undocumented immigrants in U.S. history, at the same time millions are being spent to block undocumented immigrants crossing the southern U.S. border, while the Republican majority in both houses insists there will be no immigration reform and if it is attempted, they will block it.

According to official U.S. figures, some 4 million undocumented persons could be considered eligible for a work permit without deportation, and another 1.5 million could enjoy non-deportation through a temporary protected status for minors. Millions of undocumented immigrants, mostly Mexicans, are hoping to apply for non-deportation and stay legally by applying and meeting a series of requirements set up by the measure. Certainly at this juncture, Mexican consulates in the United States will do a great job on behalf of undocumented Mexicans.

The majority of undocumented Latinos in the U.S. are Mexican, so the relief the executive action can be assumed to bring is very important for millions of their countrymen who, over the years, have lived with and suffered from the threat of deportation. In the years of the Barack Obama presidency, deportations have reached the highest levels in history. Undoubtedly the economic crisis contributed to the decrease in the number of undocumented Mexicans from 6.9 million in 2008 to 5.9 million in 2012.

Although they are still called illegal, the undocumented in the U.S. have played a very important role in the development of the country’s economy, demography and culture. There is no doubt that the labor market is the main driver of immigration. There were 8.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. in 2012, an important part of the workforce in different states. Still, few positive contributions are appreciated, as if the American union had forgotten that this is a country that has been built through various migratory waves since its birth.

A Pew Research Center study shows interesting questions: the undocumented population between 2009 and 2012 increased in seven states, among them Florida, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland; while it decreased in 14 states, most notably California, Georgia, Illinois, New York and Massachusetts. Do demographics move with trends in the economy? Yes, but they also coincide with migratory waves and deportations in recent years, which have had a strong impact on the undocumented.

Most undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are Mexican, 52 percent in 2012. But things are not simple with regard to Obama’s executive action. A survey showed that 48 percent disapproved of it, versus 38 percent who approve. Yet another survey that measured the opinion of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants had the support of 74 percent of respondents who were told that they would have to pay fines, taxes and other issues as a condition for choosing that path.

Unfortunately, the Republican majorities in the U.S. Congress will continue to block real immigration reform for a long time.

During the economic crisis of 2009, undocumented immigrants were the ones who paid the bigger price. But now that the economy is recovering, their work should be better recognized and valued.

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