Despite the threats and overheated claims by Republicans, executive action on immigration would be a good thing for the country. Below, America’s Voice offers six reasons why President Obama should follow through on his pledge and deliver:
1. Someone needs to do something productive on immigration. Since Republicans have refused to deliver on a legislative fix, the President must move the ball forward. The real radical option is doing nothing and maintaining the broken status quo. The only way to fix our broken immigration system once and for all is for Congress to work together to pass bipartisan legislation. Yet after an historic 68-32 bill passage in the Senate in June 2013, House Republicans refused to even vote on comprehensive immigration reform this Congress (after earlier blocking a legislative fix in 2006, 2007, and 2010 and filibustering the DREAM Act in 2010). Now that both chambers of Congress will be in Republican control, it’s unfortunate that comprehensive immigration reform is still not a priority for the GOP. But as the President says, the fact that Republicans in Congress haven’t done their job shouldn’t stop him from doing his. That is what leadership looks like.
2. Executive action is smart law enforcement: Executive action will better direct law enforcement and immigration resources at national security threats, human traffickers and serious criminals, rather than spending billions of dollars deporting law-abiding immigrants who have lived in our country for years, working and raising families. This type of prioritization is a wise way to steer Americans’ tax dollars.
3. Executive action would expand the tax base: Executive action would register undocumented immigrants, turn them into documented workers, and make sure everyone (worker and employer) is paying his and her fair share of taxes. If undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least five years are eligible to apply for work permits, a report by the Center for American Progress estimates that these workers will add $6 billion more in payroll taxes in just one year. Over five years, these workers will contribute $45 billion in payroll taxes to the U.S. economy. When undocumented workers become documented they are no longer prey for unscrupulous employers, who undercut the wages and working conditions of all workers, and gain an unfair advantage over decent employers who do the right thing for their workers.
4. Executive action would help immigrants who are American in every way but their paperwork. Those likely to be eligible for executive action are hardworking members of American families who came here for the same reason earlier immigrants came to America: to build a better life. They have deep ties in this country, are law-abiding, and may have children or spouses who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. But under our broken immigration system, there is no line to get into, no process to sign up for and no way to fix their situation. Finally, the President’s action would give them a line to get into, a process to sign up for and a way to come forward to get into the system — bringing peace of mind and stability to these American families.
5. There is a long history of presidents taking action on immigration within their broad, established legal authority. Legal experts agree: the President of the United States has broad authority to take executive action on immigration. And over the past 60 years, every President, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, has taken immigration-related executive actions (a total of 39 times). For example, President George H. W. Bush’s Administration issued a “Family Fairness” policy that allowed 1.5 million spouses and children of legalized immigrants – nearly half of the undocumented population at the time – to apply for deferred action. The President cannot give immigrants green cards if they don’t already qualify for them, and he can’t create a new path to citizenship. But he can take these initial steps. What gets started by executive action can – and must – be finished through legislative reform by Congress.
6. This is a practical first step while Americans wait for Congress to do its job and deliver a legislative solution. There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, a population the size of the state of Ohio. Most live in families and have deep ties to America. For Republicans attacking executive action on immigration, what is their preferred solution for undocumented immigrants in America? The Republican idea that we can deport our way to a solution, or force millions to leave (Mitt Romney called it “self-deportation”) is both impractical and un-American. The federal government is not going to round up or force out 11 million people. As for those who say we have to secure the border first, before we do anything else, that’s just an excuse for inaction and the status quo. The Senate immigration bill that passed in 2013 on a bipartisan basis had the toughest border security provisions in American history, and it still wasn’t “good enough” for most Republicans. The third alternative is a path to legalization or citizenship – the most pragmatic, humane, and sensible option, but an option Republicans who head up the current Congress have blocked. Eventually, Congress will need to pass immigration reform. But until they step up and do their job, the President should do everything in his power to ensure our laws are enforced smartly and well.
When the President takes action on immigration, we predict the initiative will be popular for the six reasons outlined above. By leaning into this issue and advancing the ball, the President and Democrats will begin to address a tough problem and make government work for real people. Executive action also will energize Latino and Asian American voters who were disillusioned in 2014.
To be sure, the Republican Party will continue its lurch to the right behind the likes of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) in response. These hardliners want to stop executive action and are threatening to force a government shutdown to get their way. They’re so extreme they want to take away DACA from DREAMers and subject them to deportation. But wiser Republicans understand that such strident opposition is likely to cement the GOP’s reputation as a party that is anti-Latino, anti-Asian and anti-immigrant, which will hurt their chances in the 2016 election and beyond.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
The immutable facts in this debate are that the American people want action to begin fixing the nation’s immigration system and that the President has the legal authority and historical precedents to act. He will be following in the footsteps of Republican and Democratic presidents for the last 60 years — all of whom have taken executive action to advance immigration policy changes. The only reason the GOP has decided to deny their own Party’s history is politics: they cannot stand president Obama. More sadly and to the point, the Republican Party has drifted away from moderation and has become increasingly hostile to immigrants. That is what this fight is all about.