Barack Obama: The Great Emancipator

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“Number one, it is absolutely critical that we tone down the rhetoric when it comes to the immigration debate, because there has been an undertone that has been ugly. Oftentimes, it has been directed at the Hispanic community. We have seen hate crimes skyrocket in the wake of the immigration debate as it has been conducted in Washington, and that is unacceptable.” –Barack Obama               

Tonight, President Barack Obama unveiled a new Executive Order (EO) that will protect an estimated 5 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation. The administration’s latest EO comes in response to the inaction House Republicans have displayed in addressing the immigration issues.

Vox.com broke down the president’s EO here, below is a summary of their reporting:

  • Expansion of a program Obama’s already put into place: the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which allows young unauthorized migrants who’ve come here as children (and who meet a few other requirements) to get temporary protection and work permits. 1.2 million immigrants are eligible for DACA already (although only about 600,000 have actually applied for and received protection).

             By the numbers, you have:

  • 270,000 immigrants who will now be covered under the DACA program
    • Immigrants who are older than 30 now, but still entered before they were 16, are now eligible for DACA.
    • Immigrants who entered after 2007, but before 2011, are now eligible for DACA.
  • 4 million parents of US citizens or green card holders will be covered under a new program.
    • Only parents who’ve been in the country for at least five years (since 2009) will qualify.
    • Parents will qualify even if their citizen or green-card-holding children are over the age of 18.
  • In order for the program to be effective when it officially launches (which is expected to be in spring of 2015), people are going to have to apply.
  • Obama is promising certain classes of immigrants that they won’t be deported for a three-year span of time. The program will also issue work permits that are valid for the same amount of time. And in most states, deferred action is also enough to make someone eligible for a driver’s license. But as soon as the three years are up, if an immigrant hasn’t applied for renewal, he or she is vulnerable to deportation again.
  • The White House is also making major changes to its signature immigration enforcement program, called “Secure Communities.” Secure Communities sends the fingerprints of anyone booked into a local jail to immigration officials; federal agents can then ask the local cops to hold the inmate, so they can pick him up.
  • Currently, green-card holders can apply for visas for their spouses, but if the spouse is already in the US as an unauthorized immigrant, that gets extremely hard. A few years ago, the Obama administration started letting spouses of US citizens stay in the US while applying for a waiver that would let them get legal status — instead of having to wait for months outside the country without knowing if they could return. Now, that’s being expanded to green-card holders as well.
  • The administration is looking to expand a program that lets foreign students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields work in the United States for up to 2 1/2 years or so after they graduate.
  • They want to make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs and startup founders to come to the US to build their companies.

In 2013, the United States Senate passed a bi-partisan immigration law, a law that includes $40 billion for Border Patrol agents every half mile, an extensive fence and even drones that can spot human border-crossers, all Republican requirements for comprehensive immigration reform. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate passed immigration bill would also increase economic growth by 4.8%, lower the deficit by $1.2 trillion, increase demand for housing which would spur additional spending on residential construction by $68 billion, increase the size of the labor force, offset the aging of the native born workforce and raise wages in the long-term by .5%.

For over 500 days the bi-partisan immigration bill has sat in the U.S. House of Representative, Speaker John Boehner refuse to allow the legislation to come up for an up or down vote. So instead of throwing a temper tantrum and accusing the president of unlawful actions, the Republicans should try doing their job and vote on comprehensive immigration reform.

Tonight’s immigration Executive Order is truly historic, but it’s not enough for the millions of immigrants who are living in the shadows. This Executive Order serves as only a stop-gap measure. We need a long-term fix to the immigration issue in this country, we need comprehensive immigration reform and we need it now!

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