Obama Promises a Reprieve for DREAMers

Barack Obama has been a terrible president for immigrants. He has been deporting people at record rates. He seems to exploit the issue politically in the most cynical way. What he says about immigration isn’t too bad, however. Here’s his speech today:

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody.

This morning, Secretary Napolitano announced new actions my administration will take to mend our nation’s immigration policy, to make it more fair, more efficient and more just, specifically for certain young people sometimes called DREAMers.

Now, these are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants, and often have no idea that they’re undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver’s license or a college scholarship.

Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life, studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class, only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak.

Exactly. Of course, one may ask why these particular details are so important. Yes, it’s absurd to deport someone to a country they know nothing about, but it’s almost as bad to deport them to a country they had good reasons– economic hopelessness, political oppression, etc.– for wanting to leave. Yes, DREAMers have friends, have pledged allegiance to the flag, may have worked hard– but plenty of non-DREAMer illegal immigrants also have friends here, have worked (very) hard, and would be glad to take an oath of allegiance if we’d let them. Still, the DREAMers are a kind of wedge in the door, morally speaking. Continue reading Obama Promises a Reprieve for DREAMers

“I Was a Stranger and You Took Me In…”

That Christian churches have been a force for change at many times in history, no one can deny. Concerning how often and how important, there is a huge range of opinion. Probably the most ardent Christian social reformers would be the first to admit that Christian churches have usually been deplorably, tragically tardy in pushing for social reforms that in retrospect are obvious. On immigration, I would like to see the churches take a much stronger role than they have. On the other hand, it seems to me that to the extent that churches do take stands on these issues they are consistently on the liberal (in the best sense) and humane side of the spectrum, relative to America’s political center of gravity. The below article is a case in point.

New York Times: Evangelical Groups Call for New Stance on Illegal Immigration

Some of the nation’s most influential evangelical groups urged a solution to illegal immigration on Tuesday that defies the harsh rhetoric of the Republican primary race, which continues to undermine Mitt Romney’s appeal to Hispanic voters.

The call by the groups represents a recognition that in one bedrock element of the conservative movement — evangelical Christians — the demography of their followers is changing, becoming more Hispanic, and that Republican leaders risk being out of step with their hawkish talk of border fences and immigration crackdowns like those in Arizona.

Tom Minnery, the senior vice president of policy for one evangelical group, Focus on the Family, said many of the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants should be free to “come out of the shadows” and “begin the process of restitution” leading to attaining legal residency.

Mr. Minnery spoke at a Capitol Hill news conference called to announce that more than 150 Christian evangelical leaders, including from the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Association of Evangelicals, were endorsing an overhaul of immigration policy.

The evangelical leaders expressed opposition to such notions as “self-deportation,” which Mr. Romney favored in a Republican debate and which urges strict enforcement of laws to encourage illegal immigrant workers to leave the country.

A pro-reform movement has been percolating among evangelical groups for the past two to three years, with organizations and churches that align with Republicans on issues like abortion and gay marriage supporting President Obama on immigration reform.

The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 40 denominations, passed a resolution calling for a comprehensive immigration overhaul in 2009. The Southern Baptist Convention did so last year.

It called for “just, fair immigration reform,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptists’ ethics commission, who also attended Tuesday’s news conference.

“It passed with at least an 80 percent vote,” he said, “and four of five Southern Baptists is about as good as you’re going to get on any given day on anything.”

But Focus on the Family, the radio ministry based in Colorado, was a newcomer to the cause of an immigration overhaul.

Obama Administration Adopts De Facto Dream Act

The post was originally published at the Cato@Liberty blog here and is reproduced with permission from the author.

Two senior Obama administration officials told the Associated Press that the administration will enforce many of the major portions of the Dream Act using the president’s administrative discretion to defer deportation actions. According to a memo released by the Department of Homeland Security this morning, the plan would apply to unauthorized immigrants who:

  • Came to the United States under the age of 16.
  • Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of the memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of the memorandum.
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.
  • Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety.
  • Are not above the age of 30.

If the above plan is implemented fully, between 800,000 and 2.1 million unauthorized immigrants could be legalized for up to two years. By being legalized they will become more productive, earn higher wages, and more fully assimilate into American society. But this is only a temporary fix.

Temporary work permits can be issued to unauthorized immigrants who have their deportations deferred but in this situation they would only last 2 years. It’s a routine administrative procedure that already occurs for unauthorized immigrants who have their deportations deferred. This is one situation where the complexity of our immigration rules and regulations works to the advantage of immigrants and Americans.

A permanent version of this action in the form of the admittedly imperfect Dream Act would need to be passed to reap the full rewards.

The benefits from passing the Dream Act are enormous. Evidence from the 1986 amnesty showed that the legalized immigrants experienced a 15.1 percent increase in their earnings by 1992, with roughly 6 to 13 percentage points due to the legalization.

In the Winter 2012 issue of The Cato Journal, Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda estimated that an amnesty similar to 1986 would yield at least an added $1.5 trillion to GDP over a single decade. If 2.1 million eligible unauthorized immigrants were permanently legalized, that would be at least $250 billion in additional production over the next decade (back of the envelope calculation).

However, before we get too thrilled about the prospects of this sorely needed temporary liberalization, we should remember that hardly anything changed the last time the Obama administration used its prosecutorial discretion to review deportation cases. His administration promised to wade through backlogged cases and close those where the unauthorized immigrants had strong American family ties and no criminal records. Since that policy went into effect in November 2011, DHS officials have reviewed more than 411,000 cases and less than 2 percent of them were closed.

If the administration’s proposal temporarily goes as far as the Dream Act would, it will shrink the informal economy, increase economic efficiency, and remove the fear and uncertainty of deportation from potentially millions of otherwise law-abiding people. It would be a good first step toward reforming immigration and a glimpse at what the Dream Act would do.

The “This Land is Full” Fallacy

I was looking for books on immigration, and came across this title: Crowded Land of Liberty: Solving America’s Immigration Crisis. Perhaps I’ll read it sometime, but this post is a response to the fallacy expressed in the title. It reminds me of a long debate I had on immigration with someone I respect a great deal. We had gotten stuck for hours on an ethical question, whether it can be good to avoid seeing someone in suffering so as to avoid becoming callous—I said no—but after that it somehow came out that he actually thought another argument was the clincher, and so obviously so that my advocating open borders at all could only come from a willful blindness to, or a disingenuous refusal to acknowledge, this clincher argument, which to him was of course the reason that of course we had open borders then but can’t have them today.

I will try to state this argument as sympathetically as I can. In the 19th century, America was a big, empty country, we needed people to settle it. America had open borders, not because we had any qualms about restricting migration, but simply because it wasn’t in our interest to restrict immigration when we had so much empty land. Today, the situation is different. The country already has plenty of people. It is even rather crowded. We don’t need more. On the contrary, more people would impoverish us, crowding us still further. Our new, more restrictive policy reflects the changes in our conditions and national interests. Such is the “this land is full” fallacy.

I was caught off guard by this argument because the intellectual communities I’ve been in for the past few years have consisted largely of economists or people trained in economics. Economists might sometimes fall for the “this land is full” fallacy, if their analytical brains aren’t turned on and they’re just being normal people. But to an economist qua economist, this fallacy would hardly occur, and if it did, it can be summed up and seen through quite quickly. Continue reading The “This Land is Full” Fallacy