Obama framed the immigration debate by issuing an executive order halting deportation of young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. Under the order, they can apply for two-year work permits as long as they remain in school (or have graduated) and keep out of trouble (no felonies or significant misdemeanor crimes).
Republicans fumed that the President was usurping his power (although Mitt Romney mouthed little venom and appeared to be supportive of the end result). Hatch, poised to brush off a pesky challenge by Sen. Dan Liljenquist, railed against the President, claiming Pres. Obama made the decision for “pure political purposes.”
Hatch is probably correct. In an election year where the outcome will be decided by only a handful of states – including the Latino-rich population of Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Florida – it would be silly to ignore the political landscape.
But Obama is also correct – his decision is simply the right thing to do.
The children of illegal immigrants are victims of our current immigration policy. There are an estimated 1.4 million of them, children brought across the border through no fault of their own. They have grown up in the U.S., attend our schools and speak our language.
Except for a small checkmark on the citizenship form, they are Americans. Many have never left this country and know little about where they were born. It’s a matter of fairness as well as compassion; America has a tradition of not hanging children for the sins of their parents.
And, like it or not, a strict immigration approach harms the economy. Corporations are frustrated that they can’t hire enough professional workers with science, math, and engineering training. Some executives have found it easier to move businesses off shore.
On the low end of the pay scale, immigrants play an even bigger role. The agriculture industry cannot harvest crops with American-born workers. Last year, a group started a “Take Our Jobs” campaign to entice American workers to sweat in the fields for up to $20 per hour piece work pay. The organization received 86,000 inquiries – but only 11 workers took the jobs.
Walk into any restaurant kitchen and count the number of blonde-haired, blue-eyed men and women working over hot grills. Ask any hotel operator how many smiling born-and-bred American girls have applied to be maids.
In issuing an executive order, Obama probably cemented the electoral votes of several states while raising the blood pressure of conservative Republicans. But he also did something else: He took a realistic approach to a thorny problem and turned a nightmare into a dream for over one million young men and women. I applaud him for doing the right thing.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the ownership or management of this newspaper.