As the nation awaits a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on whether President Obama can proceed with his executive action programs to give temporary legal protections to 4.3 million undocumented immigrants, we are reminded of all the sorry failures that got us here.
Had Republicans in Congress taken responsible action on immigration reform years ago — take your pick between 2007 and 2013 — this could have been avoided.
Instead, we are in for a long legal fight.
A federal judge in Brownsville, Texas, Andrew S. Hanen, issued a preliminary injunction in February against carrying out Obama’s executive action until he rules on its constitutionality. Hanen’s injunction was in response to a suit filed by 26 states with mostly Republican leadership.
The Obama administration has asked the federal appeals court in New Orleans to overturn Hanen’s injunction. On Friday, the two sides gave 2 ½ hours of oral arguments before a three-member panel of the appeals court, during which the panel appeared divided. But, almost certainly, this suit will land in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Obama’s executive actions would allow undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and have lived in the U.S. continuously since 2010 to apply for legal protections and work permits lasting three years.
In written arguments filed in the suit, Texas made a compelling argument about the financial burden of providing services, such as driver’s licenses, to undocumented immigrants protected under Obama’s directives. Additionally, Judge Hanen noted that the government has insufficiently patrolled the border with Mexico. This isn’t unique to Obama, but rather a decades-long problem.
Lost in the states’ argument, apart the simple humanity underpinning Obama’s order, is the revenue generated by undocumented immigrants.
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act passed by the Senate in 2013 but ignored by the House was expected to boost economic output, employment, investment and productivity, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Average wages were expected to initially decrease and eventually rise. From the agricultural sector to small business and technology, immigration reform was viewed as essential.
More to the point, a strong majority of Americans want to see a fair-minded path to legal status for the undocumented.
In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and USA Today in December, 70 percent said there should be a way for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status if they meet certain requirements, though they were almost evenly split on Obama’s executive actions.
Obama acted because Republicans refused to go forward. When he issued his directives in November, angry Republicans vowed to fight.
Here we are.