By Jackson Booth, Contributor
President Obama’s announcement to stop deporting certain illegal immigrants has unleashed an intense debate across the country. A Bloomberg poll found that Americans favor his policy change two to one. Although my opinions on President Obama tend to be moderate, the president’s willingness to make ethical progress on immigration has elicited my support.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will now stop deporting veterans and members of the armed forces, those who have lived in the U.S. since childhood, lawful permanent residents, minors, the elderly, pregnant or nursing women, victims of domestic violence or trafficking, and mentally or physically disabled people. Those eligible will be able to apply for two-year work permits and eventually work towards citizenship.
While a majority of America supports Obama’s plan, not all support the measure. One of the leading forces against the President’s decision is a group called Secure Borders Coalition (SBC).
According to SBC, Obama issued an “executive order” on Friday, June 15 to alter the United State’s deportation policy which they claim will grant 20 million illegal immigrants, including dangerous criminals, amnesty.
Republican Congressman David Schweikert of Arizona made similar accusations after the president’s announcement in an interview with “The Hill” on June 19.
“Last week, the president decided to grant amnesty and hand out work permits to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, while over 23 million Americans remain unemployed…” he said. “Instead of working with Congress to secure our border and reform our immigration policy, President Obama sought to circumvent Congress once again.”
Upon hearing many of these accusations I was naturally intrigued, so I visited one of my favorite websites, factcheck.org, to see whether or not these claims were true. To my surprise, most of the accusations were not true. I hope you sense my sarcasm.
For instance the statistic that “20 million illegal immigrants will obtain amnesty” is absolutely false. According to the Department of Homeland Security there are no more than 10.8 to 13 million illegal immigrants in the U.S, and President Obama’s plan (which is not amnesty) would keep roughly 1.1 million illegal immigrants from being deported.
Additionally, President Obama did not issue an executive order, but Obama’s ICE director, John Morton, issued a directive that discussed a change in prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutorial discretion is basically a set of determined criteria for which the ICE will or will not deport certain immigrants.
Most definitively, President Obama’s policy change will not cover dangerous criminals. ICE is, in fact, already moving forward in deporting criminals and gang members contrary to the SBC’s claims. According to factcheck.org, removing criminal illegal immigrant in the 2010 fiscal year was 60 percent higher than it was the last year of the Bush administration, and the U.S. deported nearly 392,000 illegal immigrants in 2010.
While there are numerous falsehoods in many of these arguments, I find it also important to address the concerns of the opposition. Many Americans question the domino effect that this could lead to. Some fear that this is, in fact, the first step toward amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Another issue that many adversaries have toward this change is the taxation of these immigrants. Will they be or are they already taxed like the rest of Americans? Will they have access to social services like Medicaid, Medicare, etc.? There are many unknowns to this policy-change; however, I believe it is important to allow time for the questions to be answered as this policy is implemented.
Besides the logistical inaccuracies given by SBC and the legitimate concerns of the opposition, I firmly believe this issue comes down to conscience. There are thousands upon thousands of people in the U.S. who were brought to this country illegally as children and had no control over it.
This policy really hit home for me. I knew someone in high school whose mother came to America illegally with this person’s two older brothers. While the person I know is legal, the two brothers are not. They grew up in the U.S., have family and friends here, but they have no legal status and life is unimaginably hard for them. Jobs are scarce, and even if they obtain a job, they have to be extremely careful of their actions or they could be reported to the authorities. In turn, their illegal status creates a saddening cycle of economic disparity.
What is even more distressing is how much rhetoric is being used against illegal immigrants. There have been Photoshop images published on the website politifake.org of Mexican citizens holding signs saying “we want free healthcare, jobs and amnesty or we will kill more Arizona police.” This is clearly untrue, and it presents all Hispanics as illegal immigrants wanting to take advantage of America. If we want to see progress on immigration, we need to abandon such rhetoric and look for genuine solutions to this issue.
Illegally entering a country is something that should never be condoned. Regardless, there is a serious immigration problem in the U.S. that must be addressed. This issue is multi-faceted, and the federal government needs to ensure that more is being done to protect the border. Aside from that, the U.S. Government needs to analyze the entire immigration process and see what can be done to make it more efficient. Until Congress and the President can agree on immigration reform, taking concrete steps like the president’s is the only humane way to handle the presence of illegals in the U.S. President Obama is making the right move by affording illegals that were brought here against their will, the opportunity to achieve citizenship.