Tag Archives: Barack Obama

What should the Obama administration do?

The Obama administration is expected to announce a series of executive orders later today (8pm EST) regarding immigration policy. Many suspect that the President may provide relief from deportation and work permits to millions of US illegal aliens, among other changes. The best sketch of what we can expect has been provided by Fox News, which has allegedly received a ten point draft of what Obama will announce.

I have reservations about the Obama administration attempting to pass immigration reform via executive order. My chief concerns are that it sets precedent for greater executive discretion in migration policy, and that congressional Republicans will simply spend the remainder of Obama’s term trying to reverse ‘Obamigration’.

Co-blogger Nathan Smith and Bryan Caplan penned a more optimistic perspective on Obama’s use of executive powers back when the administration first announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012.  Caplan seems less optimistic about this latest round of executive action.

My reservation should not be taken to mean that the Obama administration should stay quiet on immigration. Far from it, there are two major steps the administration could pursue if it were serious about being more pro-immigration.

1. Negotiating NAFTA 2.0

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is celebrating its twentieth birthday this year. The trade agreement improved trade relations between the United States, Canada and Mexico in several sectors, but it fell short on several others including labor mobility.

Obama could call up his counterparts in Mexico City and Ottawa and begin negotiations on expanding NAFTA to remove any remaining trade restrictions between the three countries. The issue of labor mobility was ignored in the initial phase of NAFTA to minimize political tensions, but surely after two decades we can begin dialogue on allowing the free movement of people across North America?

The Schengen Area in the European Union provides us with a prime example of how to, and how not to, implement a free movement zone among the North American nations. Ideally a free movement zone between the North American nations should allow the unrestricted movement of individuals, while not creating tax burden on the host nations to provide state welfare.

I have written on this possibility previously. Of related interest Freakonomics recently had a podcast on a US-Mexico ‘merger’.

2. Allowing the Federalization of Immigration Policy.

It is unlikely that we will see sweeping reforms of the immigration system at the federal level in the near future. Even if last year’s Senate immigration bill were passed the system would only be marginally improved. Things are more optimistic at the state level though, and several state legislatures have signaled willingness to pursue their own regional policies.

Unfortunately most state legislators have curbed their proposals in fear that the federal government won’t stand for their actions. If the Obama administration made it clear that it were willing to see states take a more proactive role in shaping immigration policy things might turn out for the better in the long run.

For comparison let us consider marijuana legalization efforts. At the federal level marijuana is still illegal, but the Obama administration has thus far tolerated its legalization by the states of Colorado and Washington. In the most recent midterm elections Alaska, Oregon, and Washington DC all passed legislation to legalize marijuana. At this rate it won’t be long before marijuana is legal nationwide.

Why not allow states the same leeway in immigration policy? If Utah wishes to grant legal status to its illegal alien population and create a guest worker program for its state, why not allow it to do so? If New York wants to grant citizenship to its resident migrants, why stop it? Allowing states to set their own migration policies might lead to a few of them adopting anti-migration policies, such as Arizona, but this is a small cost to be paid.

The Obama administration should set parameters under which the states can work and thereafter sit back and watch them experiment with migration policy.

I have previously written on the subject in We Need More San Franciscos and Thoughts on State-Based Immigration Reform . My co-blogger John Lee has also explored the concept as it relates to Canada’s immigration system . Alex Nowrasteh and his colleagues at the Cato Institute have teased the idea out in previous events , and policy analysis papers . The Reason Foundation has also begun toying with the idea recently.

Whoever he is, the next US President will be wrong on immigration

Josh Barro of Bloomberg has a good piece on 5 terrible policies which both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney endorsed in last night’s US presidential debate. My only complaint about Barro’s article: its obvious failure to mention immigration policy. The immigration status quo, not just in the US but in virtually every modern nation-state, is regressive, degenerate, and immoral. Maybe this universality makes it unremarkable in the US, but keeping the borders closed certainly qualifies as one of the “Worst Ideas Romney and Obama Agree On,” per Barro’s headline. Continue reading “Whoever he is, the next US President will be wrong on immigration” »

News and Commentary on Obama’s Immigration Move

Some of the news coverage on Obama’s new immigration stance:


In an election-year policy change, the Obama administration said Friday it will stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain requirements…

Those who might benefit from the change expressed joy and relief, with celebratory demonstrations forming outside the White House and elsewhere.

Pedro Ramirez, a student who has campaigned for such a move, said he was “definitely speechless,” then added: “It’s great news.” Continue reading “News and Commentary on Obama’s Immigration Move” »

Obama’s Tepid and Temporary Immigration “Reform”

The post was originally published at the Huffington Post blog here and is reproduced with permission from the author.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) just released a memo outlining a temporary relaxation in prosecutorial discretion to allow unauthorized immigrants who came here when they were under the age of 16, to get a temporary two year (possibly renewable) work visa. This proposal is a truncated version of Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) recent proposal and another older law called the DREAM Act. This temporary version of the DREAM Act offers a glimpse of the benefits of the real one.

Under the proposal, unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States when they were younger than 16, have lived here for 5 years, are in school or have graduated from high-school or are honorably discharged from U.S. Armed Forces, who are not criminals, and who are currently under younger than 30 can stay and receive a two year temporary work permit that can be renewed. That’s it.

The government already has legal authority to grant something called “deferred action” to unauthorized immigrants. That basically means the government will choose not deport them and instead focus on criminals or other deportation priorities. Those immigrants are then allowed, under current law, to get a temporary work permit if they show “an economic necessity for employment.”

Most unauthorized immigrants who could be legalized by Obama’s memo would meet the “economic necessity” qualifications for a temporary work permit.

Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) has already said he will sue the Obama administration to stop this memo from going into effect but his success is uncertain. Rubio rightly called the measure “a short-term answer to a long-term problem” but continues by saying that it “will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long-term [solution].”

Since taking office, Obama’s DHS has deported over 1.2 million people in a frenzy of government immigration enforcement not seen since the 1950s. Last year his administration promised to use prosecutorial discretion to stop prosecuting those who 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 but closed less than 2 percent of them.

Immigration enforcement officers referred to that administrative order as “a joke” which barely impacted government policy toward deportations. This year’s change could be very different.

If applied as broadly as the DREAM Act, somewhere between 800,000 and 2.1 million unauthorized immigrants could gain a temporary work permit through the administration’s actions.

Only a fraction of the economic benefits of the proposed DREAM Act will be reaped by the memo’s policy change. Political scientist 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 the maximum of 2.1 million eligible unauthorized immigrants are legalized under the Dream Act, we would gain at least $250 billion in additional production over the next decade by a rough estimate.

A temporary two years deferment with uncertain renewals will yield benefits that are miniscule compared to what they would be under legalization.

This temporary reprieve should also have a very minimal impact on the welfare state and other government services because they are limited to those with work permits. But even if they were granted permanent resident status tomorrow, it would still be five years before they were eligible for any kind of major government assistance. In any case, immigrants use less welfare and government assistance than Americans with similar incomes.

Our government’s restrictive immigration policies fly in the face of economic reality. Most immigrants who want to come to the U.S. are denied by our immigration regulations. But just because our law doesn’t adapt to supply and demand doesn’t mean people remain idle when confronted with poverty in their home countries. A predictable outcome of immigration restrictions is that immigrants will come without authorization and Americans will want to work with them, employ them, and sell to them.

The sad situation that so many unauthorized children face, being born in another country but raised American, can only be permanently resolved with immigration reform that vastly diminishes the government’s role in regulating, limiting, and controlling immigration.

Unauthorized immigrants brought here as young children are attached to this country and our society. Many of them don’t even remember the land they were born in. It’s about time the government gets out of the way, even if it’s temporarily, and allows industrious, peaceful, and otherwise law-abiding unauthorized immigrants to not fear deportation. The next step should be real immigration reform.

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” »