Immigration Reform: What's Happening And What Still Needs To Be Done

President Obama recently signed into action an executive order that will protect 5 million people in the country illegally avoid deportation.

Any illegal immigrant living in the country who has a child who is either a citizen or legal permanent resident will be able to apply for temporary deportation relief, which would last for three years at a time. The order will grant the same relief to any person who entered the country as a minor before the year 2010. Additionally, deportation efforts will be concentrated on people who have recently arrived in the country, criminals and national security threats. “Felons, not families,” President Obama stressed in his announcement.

This executive action won’t help everyone, however, there are currently approximately 11.4 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, and any of those who have committed a crime, have only recently arrived, or do not have any children who are citizens will still face the threat of deportation.

A benefit to this overhaul, apart from granting relief to many people who need it, is that as soon as illegal immigrants become documented, they must start paying taxes, which will (minimally) increase federal revenue. It will also allow them to begin making big-ticket purchased (think house or car), and stimulate the economy. Immigrants who become documented will also be able to take documented jobs and to begin paying into Social Security and disability insurance, creating a safety-net for them if anything were to prevent them from continue working. Economically, this program is full of benefits.

A downside is that this executive order is really more of a Band-Aid solution than a permanent fix. While it does help people who have already entered the country illegally, it does not address the underlying problems: people are coming illegally, and many are doing so because it is so complicated to come legally. Comprehensive immigration reform, one that changes the way people apply for and are granted green cards, is necessary if the United States ever wants to truly fix the problem. This will likely not come until the President, Senate, and House all belong to the same party because of how deeply partisan Washington has become.

President Obama did try to pass a bill through Congress, but Senate Republicans refused to put the bill to a vote. As a way to side-step Republicans, who, starting in January, will have total legislative control, President Obama issued an executive order, which does not have to be approved by anyone. An executive order has the power of the law, and is intended as a way for the President to help any government agencies carry out the laws Congress passed (for example, if Congress says we need to lower greenhouse gasses, the President can issue an executive order on how much gas a factory can produce).

Executive orders are not meant to act as laws- they are meant to supplement laws. By using an executive order to get around Congress, President Obama (and any other president who has done this) got around the Constitution, which mandates a system of checks and balances. Although the idea of the executive action is a good one, America needs comprehensive immigration reform, as approved by Congress and signed into law by the President.