by Joe Shea
July 3, 2012
IF THIS WAS 2015, YOU'D STILL HAVE POWER
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The cynical can say that President Obama's executive order on June 15 to end the deportation of college-age undocumented immigrants was election-year pandering to Latino voters.
However, as was the case with his decision a few weeks ago to support same-sex marriage, the President is well aware of the electoral math.
The crazed right-wingers who are attacking Obama for giving nearly one million young people a chance to stay and work and go to school legally were not going to vote for the President, anyway. But for young people and for Latino voters who are solidly in Obama's corner, it's another reason to vote for him in November.
Plus, Obama's executive order had the extra, added benefit of making Mitt Romney and the Republicans look like the obstructionist, non-compassionate, racist haters that a good chuck of Americans sees them as being.
How big a chunk? A Bloomberg News poll taken after Obama's announcement found that 64 percent of likely voters support his new immigration policy, while only 30 percent said they disagreed. When you break it down by party affiliation, 56 percent of Republicans oppose it, while 86 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents support it.
So despite the clucking of the pundits, this decision was not as big a political risk as they portrayed it. This was simply the right thing to do.
As the President said, "It makes no sense to expel talented young people who for all intents and purposes are Americans [...] to expel these Americans ... simply because of the actions of their parents or the inaction of Congress."
President Obama ought to be doing more things like this on issues that the Republicans in Congress refuse to address. He can use executive orders to bypass the obstructionists and do the things that are necessary for our nation.
Congress has refused to pass the DREAM Act, which would offer undocumented youths who were brought into the United States before they were 16 a clear path toward gaining American citizenship. Anti-immigrant hostility is still strong in many states, and most politicians will not do anything during an election year to help immigrants and undocumented people.
President Obama's executive order doesn't go that far. But if they came to the United States under the age 16, lived here continuously for at least five years, are currently in school or are honorably discharged veterans of the Armed Forces, have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor, and are under age 30, they will avoid deportation and be able to obtain work permits.
Leave aside the political considerations: what the President did was an act of pure pragmatism. Instead of deporting these young people, they can remain in our country and contribute to our economy.
According to Think Progress.org, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that if the DREAM Act was enacted, the eligible students would generate as much as $3.6 trillion in taxable income over the course of their working lives, increasing federal tax revenues and reducing the deficit.
Also, the CBO found these young people could help fill the predicted shortfall of 16 million college-educated workers that will hit the U.S. economy by 2025, particularly in the science and engineering fields.
It would even help American workers that the anti-immigration crowd purports to support by raising wages for everyone. Reducing the pool of undocumented labor that employers love to exploit, and that drives down wages and benefits, would help everyone.
Most important, it gives these young people who are working hard to improve their lives, and the lives of their families, the respect and dignity they deserve for wanting to achieve the American dream.
So let the Republicans in Congress scream and yell and threatento go to court to stop this executive order from being implemented. It was their intransigence on this issue that forced President Obama to take this bold step.
And perhaps if we start electing sane people to Congress, instead of the bigots and demagogues who bash immigrants for political gain, we'll see this nation come up with a realistic immigration policy.
AR Chief of Correspondents Randolph T. Holhut has been a prize-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.