Executive order leads to immigration debate

Debby Hernandez, Administration Editor

President Barack Obama announced executive actions to be taken on the issue of immigration on Nov. 20, which include prioritizing deportation of felons not families, providing qualified illegal immigrants with a legal path to citizenship, strengthening the border and holding employers accountable for hiring illegal workers.

There are currently more than 11 million people living in the “shadows,” according to the White House website on issues.

Under Obama’s executive order, illegal immigrants will be required to pass a background check, continue to pay taxes and learn English, as a legal path to earn citizenship.

Those who have been in this country for five years or more, have children that are American citizens or legal residents, could also qualify to remain in the country for three years without fear of deportation, Obama said in his immigration speech.

One of the actions also consists of furthering border security by increasing investigative resources such as federal agents, and working with Canada and Mexico, according to the White House’s immigration blueprint document.

A procedure will be given to hire foreign workers when U.S workers are not available, to give them a reliable way to verify if their employees are here legally.

Richard Wandling, the chair of Eastern’s political science department, said being part of an ever changing country makes passing a policy on immigration necessary to reflect the changing society, and a good progressive act.

Wandling said while critics might say Obama is engaged in a sort of “grab for power” with his executive action, other presidents have used it as well.

He said students should care about the issue of immigration.

“One reason they should care about is that some of their classmates, their families might be affected by it,” Wandling said. “It has implications for our economy health, (and) it’s important to aspire to live up to our democratic values.”

Chris Macias, the treasurer of the Latin American Student Organization, said the executive action brings relief to some of his family’s friends who are current illegal immigrants.

“It allows families that do qualify for it to have security from fear they will be separated from their children,” he said. “They are guaranteed to not be deported for three years.”

Macias said while the executive action pushes congress to act, it gives no long-term guarantee for illegal immigrants until Congress acts.

“After three years, what is going to happen? We don’t know yet because Congress has not passed a law,” Macias said. “What is going to happen with those people who gave their information?”

Kevin Anderson, a political science professor, said the executive action was a necessary political act.

“(It was ) a good public policy move, because it sort of takes away the tension around whether or not you’re going to fix the law,” he said.

Wandling said we should make it easier for the next generation in terms of opportunities to contribute to this country.

“In earlier times, it was a lot easier for immigrants with specialized skills and talents to be able to come into the US economy and make a contribution,” Wandling said. “I think we overreacted after 9/11 and we overreacted to our disadvantage.”

Anderson said Obama’s executive action created a delay to give the opportunity to write a better law, and forces Congress to act.

“I think he was trying to preserve the ability to work with Congress,” he said.

Anderson said immigration has been a long-term issue.

“We have been arguing this for a long time; the only thing that changes is what ethnic group we are talking about,” he said.

Anderson said the issue should be taken into careful consideration.

“Because of these complicated lives, you don’t want to try to solve this with a very simple answer,” he said. “We have to take it seriously in all the implications.”

Anderson said people tend to have an image that illegal immigration is all about the people who cross the border, but it also involves people from the US who inform them about the opportunities.

“People don’t come here unless they believe there is some sort of opportunity,” he said. “By putting pressure on employers and security the border addresses both sides of the coin.”

Wandling said Congress might or might not act as a result of Obama’s action.

“Congress has given some definite signs that the way they’re going to act is to be retaliatory towards the Obama administration,” he said.

Wandling said he sees the issue of immigration to continue to be an issue since Congress might not be open to collaborate with Obama.

“Part of it is that there is some pathological dislike some congress members have towards the president,” he said.

Anderson said neither political party seems to be completely unified in the issue.

“Democrats are closer to consensus than Republicans, (but) some Democrats are loyal to labor unions, and some (unions) are OK with (immigration), some of them see it as a threat,” he said.

He said the Republican political party is further split on the issue.

“There are some people who are like, ‘Close the border, get everybody out,’ and that is a minority of Republicans,” he said. “You have other Republicans who are trying to negotiate a solution.”

Wandling said the “nature of our political system” leads him to predict that nothing will be done until the next presidential election.

“It seems like we sort of live election to election,” he said.

Debby Hernandez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].