There are myriad reasons why, substantively, President Obama’s grant of amnesty to 4 to 5 million illegal aliens is a horrifying mistake. Because of this, the Left has assiduously spread misinformation, hoping to obfuscate the issue. But despite what Jonathan Gruber claims, American voters are indeed intelligent and informed — and can see through the charade.
Let us tackle some of the top myths (and outright lies) surrounding this executive action, both substantively (is this a good idea?) and procedurally (is this legal?).
1. It’s good for America.
Sure, select groups of Americans benefit: big-business owners, immigration attorneys, and Poppy in Palm Beach looking for a nanny “with papers” to replace Consuelo. Apart from those, the rest of us suffer.
Legalizing millions of “undocumented aliens” (a) encourages further illegal immigration; (b) depresses the wages of American workers, particularly low-skilled workers, disproportionately, including Latinos and African Americans; (c) increases competition for jobs and makes finding — or maintaining — a job harder; and (d) is unfair to those who immigrated legally and those currently in the midst of that process.
Apart from the safety issues inherent in officially embracing foreigners who have not passed any kind of background screening, amnesty will mostly hurt those Americans who are already struggling, at a time when a staggering 27 million working-age Americans are unemployed.
“The number of immigrants added to the labor force every year is of a magnitude not seen in this country for over a century,” Obama himself wrote less than ten years ago, in his autobiography:
If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy as a whole — especially by keeping our workforce young, in contrast to an increasingly geriatric Europe and Japan—it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.
Whether increased immigration benefits the economy is an issue constantly debated, with plenty of studies supporting each side. But even working on the assumption that greater immigration can benefit the economy (my view), surely the kind of immigration and the type of immigrant matters. An orderly, organized process and a law-abiding, respectful immigrant is what we should demand, not an outlaw president granting outlaws amnesty.
2. This is a one-time fix.
The liberal response to “This will encourage more illegal immigration!” is to assure everyone that this is only a one-time order to address those who are here already. But what of the remaining 6 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S.? Why the arbitrary cutoff at those who have been here for five years or longer? And would not the arguments for legalizing these individuals also apply to those not covered in the act?
There will be some sort of amnesty for those, too, soon enough. No one — not even Obama himself — believes this is a one-time deal.
3. Only the parents of current citizens or permanent residents qualify, not the parents of the illegals who qualified under 2012’s DACA.
Remember DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in 2012, when Obama, also via the stroke of the pen, effectively amnestied 1.5 million “Dreamers” who came to the U.S. as minors? At the time, that was sold to us under the following argument: “These individuals were brought here as kids, through no fault of their own. It was the parents’ fault, not theirs.”
Well, surprising no one, now the push to legalize those parents, too, is gearing up. So much for DACA’s “punish the parent, not the child” sales pitch. Univision’s Jorge Ramos bemoaned last week that the current proposal excludes the DACA beneficiaries’ parents, and Dreamers themselves are demanding that their parents receive relief. A New York Times tweet on Sunday read, “Young immigrants were stunned to learn a deportation reprieve may not include their parents.” Stunned? Lesson to be learned here, for those who did not know it: With immigration activists, nothing is ever enough.
4. Applicants will have to go through rigorous background checks, and only those who have been here five years or longer will qualify.
The background checks will likely be superficial, as happened with those applying under DACA where DHS, overwhelmed with the applications, abandoned thorough investigation. That is to say nothing of the millions in administrative costs it will cost the American taxpayer to administer these checks.
Then there is the “five years or longer” requirement. How do we know how long a person has been here, if he or she was here illegally and “in the shadows”? Proving such is impossible in most cases, which means that someone who arrived as early as this year could apply successfully.
5. This is the right thing to do morally.
This is an emotional argument that is, moreover, incorrect. While it may feel nice to help illegal aliens, how is it morally right to slap the face of low-skilled American workers and those who have been patiently waiting outside our borders for years for a green light to come?
6. This isn’t amnesty.
Amnesty is not as convoluted a term as the Left would have you believe. Amnesty is, quite simply, by definition, a pardon. Here we have outlaws who have been given a temporary (if you can call three years “temporary”) reprieve from deportation (which will, undoubtedly, become permanent). Their current illegal status is effectively forgiven. It is amnesty.
7. Illegal aliens all come here to work hard and contribute to our society.
As National Review’s Reihan Salam asks in a recent Slate piece:
“These people — our neighbors, our classmates, our friends — they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life,” Obama said. “They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.”
Is that really true?
Second, is there even a definite net gain to society once one factors in the costs of services used — not only potential social welfare but also education and health care?
Third, millions of individuals worldwide would love to come work in the U.S. Shall we allow them all in? Why not? Why should only the sneaky ones who came across the border or overstayed a visa get that opportunity? Americans want immigrants who will assimilate and be a true part of our culture; it is unclear that we will benefit from the ones whose first experience with America was thumbing their nose at our law and order. As Sandra Bullock noted in Speed, “relationships started under intense circumstances never work out.”
Finally, there is the troubling issue of high remittance rates. The income that many recent immigrants earn, which theoretically would provide some benefit to our economy if they spent it here, is instead remitted back to their home countries.
8. If you oppose this, you are anti-immigrant.
This is perhaps the most common attack used by the Left, a straw-man argument deliberately obfuscating the matter. Opponents take issue with illegal immigrants and with those who have shown no respect for our nation’s laws. Opponents are against slapping the face of the many immigrants who spent thousands of dollars and waited years to come here legally. There is a marked difference between opposing illegal immigration and any kind of immigration.
9. Reagan and Bush did the same.
Perhaps liberals’ favorite argument the past two weeks has been “Kennedy, Reagan, 41, and 43 all did the same! Why the selective outrage, conservatives?” This requires extreme intellectual dishonesty, as the most cursory overview of previous presidents’ executive actions on immigration show they were based on, or expand on, existing legislation (in stark contrast to Obama’s execution action) and were reasonably limited in scope (also in stark contrast to Obama’s). Refer to this Pew Research chart, noting various presidents’ executive actions on immigration
10. It’s cruel to break up families.
Two points here: (1) The family chose to put itself in the position of possibly breaking up via deportation when its members chose to come and live here illegally; (2) this argument amounts to “It’s cruel to break up families so we should look the other way despite the ongoing crime committed.” Why should having a family serve as a defense? Our legal system breaks up families all the time when a father, for instance, is sent to prison for a crime. Why is that acceptable even if it breaks up a family, but not this?
11. This is what Americans want.
This is a falsehood, as both polls and midterm-election results — which in many cases were a referendum on amnesty — made clear. Poll after poll shows only moderate support for this action, even when pollsters appear to word their questions to elicit a favorable response. Nearly half of Latinos are against it, for instance, and only 63 percent of Democrats support it.
12. Obama is simply invoking his power of prosecutorial discretion.
It is illegal, under current American law, for an immigrant to work here without authorization. Yet Obama has effectively overridden that law, unilaterally providing work permits to millions of illegals and thereby not simply refusing to prosecute/deport but actually conferring an affirmative benefit on them. This is no longer merely “prosecutorial discretion.”
The White House is aware that work permits are the plan’s legal Achilles’ heel, which is probably why Obama left it out of his speech last Thursday, stating, “All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.” The AP’s fact check rebuffed the claim: “He’s saying, and doing, more than that. The changes also will make those covered eligible for work permits, allowing them to be employed in the country legally and compete with citizens and legal residents for better-paying jobs.”
13. Obama was forced to act because Congress refused to pass the legislation.
The Constitution contains no provision authorizing a president to rule by decree when Congress does not give him what he wants.
14. Don’t call it “legalization.” Obama isn’t granting legalization to anyone.
In an effort to downplay the magnitude of Obama’s executive action and bypass the pesky unconstitutional aspect of it, liberal writers have begun to defensively posture that this is not “legalization” of anyone’s status, an argumentative stretch that requires dismissing all realism and ignorance of all previous immigration reforms. One Vox article argued exactly this point, while another creatively described the plan as merely giving the illegals “greater legal certainty.” (Incidentally, that same article claimed that Thanksgiving is about immigration, so make of that what you will.)
15. Conservatives are exaggerating the plan’s potential ramifications regarding executive power.
As Senator Ted Cruz noted, this will effectively set a precedent whereby presidents can write laws as they wish — “whether it’s immigration, whether it’s tax, whether it’s labor, whether it’s environmental.”
If a president can do this via executive action, what can’t he do? Love Obama or hate him, this is a dangerous and frightening expansion of executive power — and that should worry any American, regardless of political stripe.
George Stephanopoulos questioned Obama on this very angle on This Week, asking whether, employing this precedent, a president could simply choose not to prosecute folks who, for instance, do not pay taxes on their capital gains. Bizarrely, Obama, without offering any actual explanation, answered, “Absolutely not.”
That is what America cries in response to this entire sordid mess.
— A. J. Delgado is a conservative writer and lawyer. She writes about politics and culture.