Obama offers path to citizenship for illegals

Matt Layman

Mesa Legend


President Obama gave an address to the nation in November, announcing an executive action which brings forth a “deal” to illegal immigrants.  The speech, which Obama gave on Nov. 20 from The White House, offers some illegal immigrants the chance to stay here temporarily without being deported.  “If you’ve been in America for more than five years,” said Obama, “if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily.”

A press release from The White House reported that in addition to the offer being extended to illegal residents, Obama’s executive action also includes strengthening border security. According to the statement, border apprehensions are at their lowest level since the 1970s.

Meanwhile, opponents of the measure contend that the issue lies in the difficulty to enter the country legally. “Basically, we would support a more open immigration policy if people were actually able to get in to the country,” said Nicholas Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian National Committee.  “His action to … not break up families is a good start ….”  Breaking apart families is one bi-product  of deportation that Obama intends to avoid.  “We’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security,” Obama announced in his address.

Brian Dille, a professor of political science at Mesa Community College, said, “I think if the border were more open, we would still have workers here, but they would go home in the offseason,” Dille said. “It’s only when the borders started being hardened in the late’80s that it became more difficult to cross. And once it’s more difficult to cross, once someone gets here, you don’t want to go back and go home.

“What Obama is saying is, let’s have the system we have function by focusing on the real bad guys so that we can process them, and not clog up the system with the 4 million people who are just here because they want to have a job. So, in that sense, I think it’s a really good idea.”

Obama admitted the unfairness that comes with illegal immigration. “Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules,” he said in his address. “Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less.”

In response, Dille commented, “Well, it undermines the legitimacy of the system. It is a long, expensive process to become a citizen and it’s also very difficult to legally get here. This is one thing that critics of illegal immigrants like to say, ‘If you want to come here, just do it legally.’ They don’t realize that’s actually impossible for most of the people who are here – there isn’t really a legal path for most of the people here….”

Neither side of the aisle wants to address the real issue, Dille said.  “We have green cards and visas for about 700,000 people. We have an economy that requires 4 million jobs. And so, the quota system creates a structural imbalance between the legal pathway and the actual demands of the economy, and that creates a black market.”

Republican Ariz. Senator John McCain released a statement in response to the president’s action. “I agreed with President Obama last year when he stated that taking executive action on immigration was ‘not an option’ because it would amount to ‘ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally,’” the release stated.

Coincidentally, Obama’s speech addressed that very matter. The answer is for Congress to pass a bill,  he said.  Joseph Pollard, a business marketing major at MCC, said, “I don’t think it’s fair to immigrants that legally went through the process to become Americanized, and (the plan) still doesn’t ensure that those people have an American mentality… Any time you’re trying to naturalize yourself in a different country,  I feel like you should have a vast knowledge of the culture.”  “I definitely agree with that idea,” said Amador Chavez, referring to Obama’s executive action. Chavez is the former president of Tau Psi Omega, a multicultural fraternity at ASU. “I don’t think it’s unfair to those who came here legally.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, there were approximately 240,000 “non-criminals” deported in 2013, compared to 92,000 in 2002.  “But what Obama has demanded is that the federal government  should have the authority to differentiate who we deport and who we don’t,” said MCC’s Dr. Dille. “We have an immigration court system that isn’t big enough to handle four  million people. It takes years to be seen.”

Dille doesn’t  believe that if immigrants were all deported, Americans would fill the laborious jobs that immigrants commonly fill. “There’s a lot of studies on that,” Dille said. “The jobs that they are filling are jobs that Americans won’t do. We know this because Alabama passed basically their version of (Arizona State Bill) 1070. That made it really difficult to be in the state illegally.”

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