By Joe Guzzardi
November 22, 2013
Late last Friday, the White House announced that some illegal aliens who are relatives of U.S. military personnel will be removed from possible deportation and allowed to apply for legal permanent residency. The nine-page memorandum represents the latest in President Obama’s series of similar de facto amnesties that circumvent Congress on immigration laws.
Last year, under a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the president exempted most aliens under age 30 on the assumption that they had been brought to the U.S. as minors and without their consent. Then, earlier this year, the White House extended the same exemption to illegal immigrant parents with minor children. In that memo, Immigration and Customs officials were told to consider whether the parent is the primary caregiver for a minor child, has a direct interest in a pending family court matter or is the guardian to children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
While it’s true that the Department of Homeland Security has the authority to block deportations for military members’ relatives, a policy known as “parole in place,” the official intention is to use such bureaucratic discretion on a case-by-case basis and not to apply it to entire classes of people as the administration did.
Homeland Security Department spokesman Peter Boogaard said the policy change would help "reduce the uncertainty our active duty and retired military personnel face because of the immigration status of their family members." Just how much “uncertainty” there could be in light of the declining deportation rate is hard to say. But Boogard’s comment makes a persuasive sound bite and also plays into the laughable argument that illegal immigrants live “in the shadows.”
The language in the three exemptions—DACA, illegal immigrant parents of minor children and illegal immigrant relatives of military personnel—is sufficiently vague so that it’s hard to predict the total numbers of those who will benefit. Margaret D. Stock, an Alaska-based immigration attorney and retired Army reserve lieutenant colonel, said the latest directive would likely affect thousands of military families.
In the case of DACA, however, we know that of the approximately 450,000 applications processed, more than 98 percent were accepted. By extension then, those who apply for legal status under any of the administratively exempt categories will likely be approved and will also receive work authorization.
Therein lays the rub. While some may be sympathetic to those exempted, the compassion diminishes when the government issues them work permits.
More than 20 million Americans are unemployed; job creation doesn’t keep up with population growth. The U.S. already admits 1 million legal immigrants annually; they too compete in the shrinking labor market. Young DACA recipients entered into one of the weakest demographic job sectors where even a college degree doesn’t guarantee gainful employment. Forbes Magazine reported that half of recent college graduates are employed in fields that don’t require a university diploma, mostly low-paying retail and hospitality jobs.
Worse news may be yet to come. As it becomes increasingly obvious that Congress won’t pass immigration reform—at least this year—President Obama might become more emboldened to remove other illegal immigrants from deportation. Repeated executive actions that grant amnesty are frighteningly referred to on Capitol Hill as Plan B. With only token GOP resistance mounted to the recent amnesties, the president has little to fear from excusing other illegal immigrants and thus can fulfill, albeit unconstitutionally, his campaign promise to deliver comprehensive immigration reform.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]