Obama’s Immigration Action: What You Need To Know

The President's executive action to protect close to 5 million immigrants from deportation will strengthen our economy and our national security.

President Obama’s Immigration Action Is A Necessary First Step To Fix A Broken System

We all know that our immigration system is broken. In just a few hours at 8pm tonight, President Obama will announce executive action to do what is within his legal authority to help fix it given House Republicans’ failure to act. The directives are expected to contain a number of components that will strengthen our border and national security, ensure that our enforcement resources are used to go after felons and not families, and give close to 5 million people the chance to come out of the shadows and gain temporary legal status in the United States. It will keep families together, ensuring stronger communities as well. The main components include:

  • A new deferred action program for 4.1 million immigrants who have been in the country for at least 5 years and have citizen or permanent resident children;
  • An expansion of the DACA program to remove the age cap and move up the year of arrival for eligibility, which will cover 300,000 more Dreamers; and
  • Changes to our enforcement priorities to focus on terrorists, national security threats, and other serious offenders first and foremost.

Despite conservative objections, President Obama’s action isn’t about politics — it’s about policy, prosperity, people, and public safety. Here are the key points to keep in mind about why this immigration action is important for the country.

1. President Obama is taking a smart first step to do what is within his power and legal authority to fix the problems. Taking executive action on immigration has a long and bipartisan history: All 11 presidents since Eisenhower — including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — have deferred the deportations of immigrants at least 39 times over the past 60 years. In 1990, George H.W. Bush acted to protect 1.5 million of the 3.5 million total undocumented immigrants in the United States — around the same percentage as Obama will be protecting with his new order.

2. This executive action will strengthen our national security and public safety by allowing law enforcement to focus on felons, not families. Having over 4 million immigrants come forward, register with the government, and pass background checks means that we know more about who is here to contribute and who is here to do us harm. Using our tax dollars wisely — to go after serious offenders, terrorists, and national security threats — is just smart thinking. What’s more, law-abiding families who’ve built their lives here in America shouldn’t have to be worried about being torn apart by deportation.

3. This executive action is a win-win for all American workers and taxpayers. Bringing 5 million people onto the books means that they and their employers have to pay taxes, which benefits all Americans. CAP has estimated that in the first year of the program alone, these 5 million immigrants will contribute $3 billion in payroll tax revenue alone, and $22.6 billion over 5 years. Moreover, bringing people out of the shadows eliminates the exploitation of undocumented immigrants as cheap labor by employers, which in turn helps drive all wages up.

4. This is an important first step, but we still need comprehensive legislation from Congress. While we should celebrate these changes, we need legislation to make a permanent change to our immigration system. Yet even though the Senate passed a strong and bipartisan bill, with the toughest border security provisions ever, House Republicans are watching it wither and die. It’s up to them — instead of threatening to shut down the government or impeach the president — to act on passing bipartisan reform.

BOTTOM LINE: President Obama’s immigration order, in line with previous presidential action on the issue, is an important but modest first step toward fixing our broken immigration system. The directives he is poised to make will focus law enforcement resources on felons, not families, and will help grow the economy by bringing millions of workers out of the shadows. While Republicans will inevitably complain, it was on them to pass comprehensive legislation through Congress–and it is still on them to follow through.

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