This week President Obama showed just how powerful the presidency can be by potentially drastically changing the lives of 4 million people. After years of Congress not passing any law to deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, Obama used his power as President to pass immigration reform that ensures illegal migrants whose children were born in the US will no longer be able to be deported. The Republican Party reacted with predictable fury, saying that Obama is acting like a dictator or monarch. So what the ‘immigration problem’ in the US, and what will now change? And what does this mean for the next few years of American politics?
As I mentioned, the US’s immigration problem is the fact that there are currently around 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country. These mostly Mexican and Central American migrants work cash-in-hand jobs, and don’t pay taxes. If they’re found, they can be detained and deported to their country of origin, no matter how long they’ve lived in the US. However, children born in the United States automatically have the right to US citizenship, which means there are a huge number of families where the parents could be deported at any time, but their children have every right to remain in the country.
The US still isn’t exactly sure how to deal with these millions. Some ‘sanctuary cities‘ like Los Angeles and New York have the policy to never inquire into someone’s immigration status. The aim of these policies is to create more trust between immigrants and the police, and avoid the situation where the police are hunting down illegal immigrants instead of focusing on criminals. However, this isn’t always the case. One actress wrote this week of coming home as a child to discover her parents gone. They had been arrested as illegal immigrants, and were eventually deported. As a citizen, she was left behind to make it on her own.
President Obama’s new plan is designed to focus on these families. Illegal immigrants who have lived in the US for at least five years, and who have a child with US citizenship will be allowed to apply for work permits.This will affect almost 4 million people who are currently illegal. They will be able to get official jobs, pay taxes, and live without fear of having their family torn apart.
This seems like something no one could argue with – but the Republicans are. What mainly enrages them though is that Obama has done this by ‘executive action’, ignoring Congress. His reason for doing this is that Congress has repeatedly failed to take any action to deal with the problem. The Republican House of Representatives even refused to debate an immigration bill passed by the Senate. However, Republicans see this as acting a monarch, and disregarding the votes of the American people who recently elected a Republican majority in the Senate.
There is no doubt that Obama’s plan is a slap in the face to the Republicans. After some brief talk of working together after the elections, he’s shown the Republicans that he will still proceed with his plans with or without them. Being someone who supports the President’s actions, I have to say that I find the situation Republicans are now in quite amusing. They could try their hardest to block the plans from being carried out, but cancelling the plan in the future would be a terrible political move. As commentators have said, it’s not very easy to tell 4 million people with work permits that they’re illegal immigrants again. Republicans need more of the growing Hispanic vote to survive in the 21st century, and that wouldn’t be the way to go about it.
What Obama’s plans do mean though is that – as I predicted – American politics is about to get really nasty. The Republicans feel like they’ve been deliberately insulted, and any prospect of cooperation just disappeared. The next few years promise political warfare – a problem for a Republican Party that needs to prove that they can do something besides say ‘No’.