Last night, mainstream television stations refused to run President Obama’s speech, but the message still came across loud and clear: the president is moving forward on immigration reform because the GOP House won’t take action. In the first minute of the speech, he announced that about 4.4 million undocumented immigrants—parents, children, and others who have lived at least five years in the country—will not be forced out of their homes.
Undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent children can legally stay in the country and work if they pass a background check. His 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy will be expanded by removing the top age limit of 31 and applying to all those who came to the U.S. before January 1, 2010. Relief from the deferred action will be three years, an increase from the two-year DACA program. Executive orders are temporary, made on a case-by-case basis, can be revoked, and do not put immigrants on a path toward citizenship. They are required to pay taxes but won’t be eligible for most government benefits including the Affordable Care Act subsidies.
Other benefits focus on those illegally crossing the border since the beginning of the year, convicted criminals, suspected terrorists, and possible threats to national security. The president’s new executive order will broaden opportunities for highly skilled workers and change how visas are distributed. Parents of DACA recipients and agricultural workers are not included in this relief, but they may be eligible for reprieve from other factors. Any person granted deferred action can get work authorization by demonstrating “an economic necessity for employment” and can obtain Social Security numbers.
As expected, the Party of No has doubled down on its threats to block the president and avoid helping the people of the United States:
Shut down the government: That GOP suggestion included talk on last Sunday shows. Although Sen. John Thune (R-SD) had earlier acknowledged that this move “doesn’t solve the problem,” he hasn’t rejected the option.
Defund the immigration plan: Rescission is a parliamentary procedure that lets legislators pass a budget bill and then return to cut out whatever they don’t want. Citizenship and Immigration Services is funded through fees, however, not congressional appropriations, meaning that Congress can’t take this route.
Block confirmation of all nominees, including the U.S. Attorney General and judges: This threat isn’t new; the GOP senators have been doing it during the past two congresses. They will continue, however, because they’re hoping for a Republican president in two years to pack the courts and other federal seats.
Refuse to pass any immigration legislation through Congress: It’s not as if the GOP House has been willing to do pass any legislation anyway.
Impeach the president: Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Joe Barton (R-TX), and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) have all suggested this action, useless because it requires a two-thirds vote in the senate. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) even wants to send the president to prison. He suggested the possibility that “the president’s conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America” which carries “a five-year in-jail penalty.”
Sue the President: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a presidential wannabe, called the executive action a “cynical ploy” to distract Republicans from other agenda items. Because the Republicans haven’t moved anything forward for years, this doesn’t set up an unusual situation. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has finally found a lawyer who took the case after rejection from two others. The current filing uses the Affordable Care Act as its basis but just asks for a ruling without any request for relief, injunction, or change.
The House may fail in suing the president for his executive order on immigration. The Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States (2012) ruled “broad discretion” for the executive branch in immigration matters because removal is a civil, not criminal, matter. The law reads that undocumented people “may” be removed, not “must”; thus the executive branch “must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all” on a case-by-case basis. Immigration law does require custody for those who have committed a serious crime or previously “engaged in a terrorist activity.”
One reason that Republicans want to block the immigration executive order is that the president’s actions will improve the economy. With about 5 million more people obtaining work permits, wages will be increased by an average of 8.5 percent and raise an additional $3 billion in payroll taxes for just the first year and $22.6 billion for the first five years. GDP will go up by 0.9 percent, about $210 billion, and the federal deficit will shrink by $25 billion through this growth. The senate bill would have had far greater economic benefits, but it was kept from a House vote.
Immigrants do not have a negative impact on earnings of native-born workers because the two groups usually have different skill sets and look for different kinds of jobs. As new immigrants move to the U.S., the number of jobs lost to offshoring actually decreases, keeping more jobs for native-born workers and greater demand for such services as transportation of these goods throughout the country. Getting immigrant labor for lower-skilled jobs moves native-born workers in those jobs up the job ladder, giving them higher-paid jobs. Immigrants also do not displace U.S. workers because many of them start their own businesses.
Republicans ignore the executive actions on immigration taken by 11 U.S. presidents, every president both Republican and Democrat since President Dwight Eisenhower. Reagan granted deportation relief to minor children of parents who benefited from a 1986 immigration reform, and George H.S. Bush gave the same relief to about 1.5 million “family members living with a legalizing immigrant  who were in the U.S. before passage of the 1986 law.” As the president said in his speech:
“To those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”
President Obama’s actions are not an amnesty. Reagan was the president who strongly supported amnesty. In a presidential debate in 1984, he said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”
The farthest-right members of Congress rant about the president’s actions because they think the GOP now has a mandate to take over the country. They forgot that they completely ignored any “mandate” from the 2012 election when both the elected president and Senate were Democratic and the majority of votes for the House were Democratic although gerrymandering provided a majority of GOP representatives. GOP congressional members have proceeded during the past six years with its only goal–to stop any action from the president.
While the Republicans threaten the president, they also call on violent action from people across the country by trying to terrify them. For example, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has said, “You could see violence.” He seemed to give people the right for anarchy when he explained how people think:
“If the law doesn’t apply to the president and it’s not affirmatively acted upon us as a group, like you’re seeing in Ferguson, Missouri then why should it apply to me?'”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leader in the anti-immigrant movement, said during his Sunday radio program that it’s possible that a Hispanic majority in the U.S. could conduct an “ethnic cleansing.” In a game of “us versus them” played against imagined enemies, conservatives, like terrorists such as ISIL use this method to control people and keep them from being free.
As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, the GOP immigration plan for the past 30 years is to “make America somewhere no one wants to live.” Immigrants have come to the United States to improve their standard of living. That hope is gradually disappearing through the GOP’s plans to decrease wages, eliminate health care, increase imprisonment, and expand the number of unwarranted deaths through unimpeded gun violence.
Older GOP legislators refuse to pay attention to historic and economic facts just as they reject science. Their only plan is the same one that they’ve used for the past six years to stop the president: do nothing.