Work Permits for Votes

Monday, 25 June 2012 13:58

Work permits for “dreamers” is a political masterstroke. It allows President Obama to cement the Hispanic vote more securely in his coalition and at the same time paints the Republicans as not caring about children. It also takes a tiny step in the direction of fixing our countries biggest current immigration problem: What to do about the twelve million people who are here without documentation?


At Rational Immigration we try to support any move that allows people more freedom to live where they choose and President Obama's new policy directive meets that test. It is a step in the right direction.

President Obama's announcement on Friday June 15 that he had instructed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to stop deporting Dream Act eligible young people and to begin issuing them two year work permits was touted as a major change toward solving a national humanitarian crisis. In reality it is not that new of a policy. More than a year ago in March of 2011 President Obama announced to great fanfare that he had instructed DHS to stop deporting “dreamers.” And in June of that year DHS issued a memo instructing its agent to focus on people with criminal records. Meanwhile while all of the “nice talk” has been going on on the political side more than a million people have been deported during the Obama Administrations first three years in office. This number is unprecedented. It is more than were deported in eight years of the Bush administration. In fact it is the most people ever deported by any president ever.

On Wednesday Ruben Navarrette wrote a great column titled Obama's Immigration Con Job. In it he points out that “there are four stations of relief for illegal immigrations -- not deporting them, issuing them work permits, granting them permanent residency, and awarding them citizenship. The first one falls under the purview of the executive branch, and the last two under the legislative. The part about issuing work permits is disputed territory..”

There are precedents for Presidents claiming the right to act in the “disputed territory” between the legislative and executive branches. In 1995 President Clinton wanted to protect federal land in the western US from mining, grazing and timbering. Congress opposed him for many reasons. But some smart lawyers on his staff found a way to make an end run around Congress. They found an old piece of legislation called the Antiquities Act in which Congress authorized the President to establish “National Monuments” without additional Congressional authorization. All previous Presidents who had used the act had designated areas that were less than a few hundred acres as national monuments. However the original act did not have any size constraint written into it and President Clinton was able to use this loophole to establish among other thing the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument at 1.9 million acres without having to ask Congress for enabling legislation.

Early pollingon the issue by Bloomberg showed surprisingly strong support from likely voters. More than 60% said they support the move. This might explain why the President's, mostly Republican, opponents have so far been uncharacteristically quiet. It also is confirmational data for those of us who believe that we are near a tipping point on immigration where the public are going to suddenly start to comprehend that more well organized immigration is good for our economy and our country. Kudos to President Obama for finally taking a political risk and trying to fulfill the promise he made to Hispanic voters in 2008.