Bordering on Misguided

Illustration by Elyse Yang
Illustration by Elyse Yang

President Obama fell short with his recent executive order to reform immigration, leaving out crucial groups of residents and failing to properly help the rest. 


Illustration by Elyse Yang
Illustration by Elyse Yang

President Obama’s executive order is not a victory for immigration reform; it’s another nail in its coffin. While it’s better than nothing, a little caution on the behalf of the president could have gone a long way in striking a grand bargain with the newly-elected Congress. Instead, America’s broken immigration system gets a band-aid on its dismembered limb, with no hope of stopping the bleeding.

There’s only so much the president can do on his own. Obama’s action on immigration reform is akin to treating asthma with cough syrup: It can’t hurt, but it’s hardly enough. According to the Washington Post, around 6.2 million undocumented immigrants are excluded because the executive order does not cover those without children. No replacement was considered to address the outdated and incredibly broken guest-worker program. Nothing is mentioned about people who will come to the country illegally in the future. Recent arrivals, especially the tens of thousands fleeing countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, countries that rank in the top five in regards to murder rate, as cited by American Progress, are also left out. And the parents of “Dreamers,” children brought illegally to the United States who are both law-abiding and productive, are at risk of seeing their families torn apart, according to the Los Angeles Times.

This humanitarian aspect cannot be stressed enough. The United States is a nation of immigrants, and it’s both un-American and cruel (and not to mention, unrealistic) to send millions of people back to countries littered with corrupt leaders, untamed violence and zero opportunity for a better life. These immigrants did break the law by crossing the border without authorization, but it was out of compassion to feed their families, worried that their home country doesn’t provide for a bright future. They saw a land rife with opportunity and advancement right in front of them, only to be dismayed by an unnecessarily complex immigration system riddled with red tape and an entrenched bureaucracy. But even when here illegally, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says that they still pay billions of dollars in taxes. And according to RAND think tank senior economist James Smith, they have contributed billions of dollars to the U.S. Economy since 1980. Many work the kind of jobs — namely manual labor jobs like in agriculture — that U.S. citizens don’t want to take, as reported by the United States Department of Labor.

So immigration is a good deal. America is an exceptional place with immense size, resources and business opportunities that enables this country to handle so many. The United States needs more people, not less, especially due to the mass retirement of the baby boomers and a falling fertility rate, as reported by TIME Magazine. By failing to properly reform the immigration system or adding restrictions, the country will find itself dwarfed by an imbalance of the elderly relative to the youth, a problem that can lead to anemic growth and has given much of Europe and Asia a headache, as shown in a study done by the Pew Research Center. The most egregious example is Japan, where 25 percent of the population is elderly. The Japanese just recently entered a triple-dip recession, and their old and declining population certainly doesn’t help. As a rule of thumb, it’s good to live in a country where people desperately want in, not out.

But Obama’s unilateral action on immigration all but kills any chance of meaningful reform in this political climate. Bloomberg Politics reported that before the executive order, House Speaker John Boehner claimed that executive amnesty would be akin to “poison[ing] the well.” He was not exaggerating. The next Congress will feature the largest Republican House majority since World War II, according to the Wall Street Journal — a majority composed of many Congressmen who simply rode the conservative wave by stating that they’ll oppose anything and everything the president touches. Considering that an immigration bill has already passed the Senate, Obama should be reaching out to the House, not dividing it.

Despite intense opposition by Republican backbenchers, the party desires reform, especially the leadership. The Wall Street Journal reports that there is a consensus that further inaction with regard to immigration will lead to total alienation of the growing Hispanic electorate, thus relegating the GOP to a future of permanent opposition. This is where politics comes into play. Obama wants this, and he knows executive action on a polarizing issue, one that he previously argued he has no power to act alone on, could bait the Republicans into overreacting. It’s no wonder that Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg argued that “maybe President Obama is just trolling?”

Well, Republicans fed this troll a four-course dinner. Think Progress reported on Senator Jeff Sessions warning of constitutional anarchy, and Congressman Mo Brooks charged that this could make Obama a criminal. Senator Ted Cruz was quoted by CNN as likening Obama to a conspirator against the Roman Republic. Not to mention other varying claims: tyrant, king, emperor! This is not encouraging political discourse. It could be a long time before real immigration reform is achieved.

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