Immigration reform is needed, but executive action is not the answer

Immigration reform is needed, but executive action is not the answer

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Leftist May Day immigration march in LA, 2006. (Via Wikipedia)
Leftist May Day immigration march in LA, 2006. (Via Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON, November 20, 2014 − We can all agree that the immigration system is broken and is desperately in need of repair quickly. But the impending executive (and probably illegal as well as divisive) action by the President is not the answer. So what can be done?

The problem is that up to 11 million people are in the US illegally. While the children born in this country are technically U.S. citizens due to a yawning loophole in the law, the illegal entry by their parents means that the parents can be deported.  Most people believe this would create a humanitarian crisis.

These children were born and have lived their entire lives in the U.S. Deporting their parents would mean that the children would have to leave with them or stay behind and somehow live in the U.S. without their parents. Because Americans are generally very compassionate people, this action just doesn’t seem fair.

The solution to the problem is for Congress to pass and for the President to sign a new immigration law. Because of sharp differences between these two branches of government, generally along party lines, this hasn’t happened. As a result, the President claims his only option is to take executive action to allow the parents, under some basis, to legally remain in the U.S. But is this the best idea?

The President’s allies note that both Presidents Reagan and Bush (41) took executive action on immigration. And in fact that is true. However both presidents took executive actions that expanded or slightly revised laws already passed by Congress.  Congress generally supported these orders since they still observed the spirit of the law.

President Reagan’s order gave a reprieve to children who were living in households of parents who essentially received amnesty but were not specifically mentioned in the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed in 1986. President George H.W. Bush signed an executive order that raised and re-defined the limit for the age of a child from 18 to 21, and Congress eventually upheld this order. In neither case was the executive order issued to bypass Congress, which brings us to the upcoming action Obama intends to take.

Just after the November 4, 2014 election, Obama said that he heard the voice of the American people who resoundingly defeated his party and his policies. He further said he was willing to work with the new Congress that would be sworn in after January 1.

He then contradicted himself when he later stated he would act alone if Congress did not pass immigration reform by the end of the year. He contradicted himself again when he said he would be acting by executive order now instead of waiting until the end of the year. We can only wonder why there was such a sudden sense of urgency.

Ultimately, Obama’s motivation remains somewhat unclear, although pundits on both sides offer views ranging from “We have waited too long for this” to “He really doesn’t care what Congress wants.  He wants things done his way.”

The reality is that Obama had an opportunity to pass immigration reform in 2010 and 2011 when his party controlled both houses of Congress. He did not act then, and even when he tried to get the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) act passed, his own party rejected it. Eventually Obama used executive action to essentially implement that act, effectively overriding Congress in the process.

There are valid arguments on both sides of this issue. As a humanitarian dilemma, there are millions of people living in this country illegally, but who are contributing members of society, having raised families who have integrated into communities where they are generally welcomed. They often are willing to take jobs that other Americans refuse to take and will do so at lower wages than Americans will accept. This keeps costs down for business and, as people like me who live in a resort community know, the illegals provide much of the labor the town needs to function properly.

On the other hand, they broke the law to get here. Their willingness to work at lower wages serves to depress wages in general for working Americans. And they put a burden on our social service systems at a time when we simply cannot afford it as a nation. The fear for the future is that after Obama signs the executive order, others will stream into the country illegally, have a child and then petition to stay here because they are the parent of an American citizen.

As is always the best case for problems like this in a representative Democracy, our elected officials should sit down and talk, with the attitude that they will “Seek a solution rather than sell a position.”

It is time for this President to stop selling and start seeking.

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