Since its inception, America has been a nation of immigrants. Since becoming a prosperous and powerful nation, though, America has had to confront the issue of illegal immigration. The purpose of the present expository essay on social policy is to discuss President Obama’s recent efforts regarding immigration reform.
- The essay will begin with a description of the President’s stance on this subject.
- Then, it will proceed to an evaluation of in light of relevant information regarding the success of previous immigration policies and public opinion within the nation.
- Finally, the sample essay will reflect on the executive order on this subject signed by Obama in November 2014 and its potential implications.
Obama’s stance on immigration
President Obama’s stance on the issue of immigration is clearly delineated on the relevant page of the White House’s website. According to this website, Obama’s platform contains four main elements:
- the first is to strengthen border security;
- the second is to streamline legal immigration;
- the third is to develop a pathway through which illegal immigrants can work toward earning citizenship;
- the fourth is to crack down on employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.
This platform is quite diverse, it would be difficult to classify it as being either “soft” or “hard” on the issue of immigration. Above all else, Obama’s stance is a pragmatic one, and it strives to meet two main objectives. The first is to deal with illegal immigrants already present within the United States in a reasonable way; and the second is to prevent further developments in the issue by taking steps to prevent further illegal immigrants from successfully entering into the nation.
In a speech he deliver on the 20th of November 2014, Obama provided justification for his stance with characteristic candor:
“And let’s be honest, tracking down, rounding up and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans” (paragraph 17).
This rationale contains both practical and moral elements. At the practical level, Obama is surely correct that it would be unreasonable to seriously consider finding and deported every illegal immigrant currently within America. However, Obama’s statement indicates that even if this were possible, it would be undesirable, because destroying the lives of people who followed their dreams to America (illegally or otherwise) would be contrary to America’s fundamental character as a nation of immigrants.
Therefore, according to Obama, just as it is necessary to uphold the rule of law and prevent further illegal immigrants from entering into the nation, it is also necessary to take a more pragmatic approach when it comes to addressing the illegal immigrants already within the nation.
In this context, two of the four elements of Obama’s stance can be identified as geared toward prevention of new illegal immigration. These would be the strengthening of border security and the cracking down on companies that employ undocumented workers: these efforts are meant to either stop illegal immigrants from crossing the border into America in the first place or to undermine the level of opportunity they will experience once they are here.
One of the remaining two components, the streamlining of the immigration process, seeks to discourage illegal immigration by developing a more straightforward process through which persons can legitimately immigrant into the nature. Finally, the fourth element of Obama’s platform, earned citizenship, explicitly addresses the situation of illegal immigrants and provides them a route through which they can “come out of the shadows” (White House, paragraph, 5).
Evaluation of stance on immigration
There are two main reasons why it would be fair to evaluate Obama’s platform as a potentially effective one. The first is that previous immigration reforms within the nation, which have contained less proactive elements for streamlining the immigration process and eventually changing the status of illegal immigrants, have not seemed to have met with real success.
For example, Dnato, Durand, and Massey found that the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which was passed in 1986, seemed to have no significant effect with respect to deterring Mexicans from illegally crossing over the border into America. Some of the provisions of this legislation, such as the focus on employers who hired undocumented workers, resemble certain elements of Obama’s own immigration platform; but Obama’s platform is more far-reaching in its proposals regarding what can be done with the illegal immigrants already within the nation as well as its proposals regarding the reform of the immigration process as such.
It would be reasonable to believe that such elements are quite essential for a plan that can truly address the problem of illegal immigration at a deep level.
Moreover, Obama’s stance would seem to be congruent with the positions held by strong portions of the American population. For example, according to national polls reported by Wolgin and Kelley, strong majorities of Americans clearly reject mass deportation as a plausible or legitimate solution to the problem of illegal immigration; rather, they clearly support the sort of pragmatic compromises that characterizes Obama’s stance on immigration (points 1 and 3).
Likewise, the same review of polls has also indicated that most voters believe in both preventive measures such as securing the border and pragmatic measures such as providing routes through which illegal immigrants within the nation can become citizens. Also, Melo, Colson, and Ramirez have also indicated that among the Hispanic population itself, the right of undocumented workers to remain within America and work over the long term is a key priority.
Obama’s immigration clearly contains provisions through which undocumented workers could achieve this objective, as long as they meet the relevant criteria and requirements. Obama’s stance is thus not only pragmatically workable, it would also seem to be in congruence with the broader mood in the nation.
Executive orders on immigration
In the speech he delivered on 20th of November 2014, Obama introduced his intention to sign an executive order that would expand the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in order to make the protections apply to more illegal immigrants. According to Krogstad and Passel,
“President Obama’s new programs could affect about 4 million total immigrants who will be eligible for deportation protection and a three-year work permit. The largest group—at least 3.5 million, according to Pew Research estimates of 2012 data—consist of unauthorized immigrant parents who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and have children who either were born in the U.S. or are legal permanent residents” (paragraph 1).
This is an enormous move that essentially changes the status of approximately a third of all the illegal immigrants currently within the nation. According to Krogstad and Passel, about two-thirds of these new beneficiaries will consist of immigrants from Mexico.
According to his speech, Obama’s main intention is to utilize the executive order as a kind of stopgap measure that will extend protection to these illegal immigrants until a more workable immigration policy can be passed at the legislative level. Essentially, the original DACA program only applied to children who illegally entered into the United States before they were 16 years old to remain within the nation, obtain work permits, and avoid deportation. Now, with the proposed executive order, this protection will also extend to many of the parents of such children.
This initiative does not in and of itself provide pathways through which these illegal immigrants can become American citizens, but it does protect them from the immediate consequence of deportation.
Potential implications of Obama’s order
Given the current political situation in Washington, it can be expected that Obama’s executive order will result in the emergence of a strong animosity from the Republicans. In particular, the Republicans seem to primarily support a policy of deporting illegal immigrants without offering them a path to citizenship; and Obama’s executive order, which would essentially allow illegal immigrants to stay for now without becoming citizenship, as the lowest levels of support of all possible options among Republicans (Blake, paragraph 7).
Moreover, even the broader public seems to be somewhat skeptical of Obama’s decision to proceed alone on this matter with an executive order, as opposed to allowing the legislative process to take its course. In short, whatever else Obama’s executive order is, it is also a risky and controversial political gambit. The idea is that it will catalyze the legislative process into catching up with the order; but it would seem to be just as possible that the legislative process will end up directly challenging that order.
As has been discussed above, though, it would seem that the Republican’s call for deportation is out of touch with both pragmatic realities and popular sentiment within America. Again, according to Wolgin and Kelley, most Americans do not in fact believe in deportation as a solution to the problem of illegal immigration; and President Obama has flatly affirmed that such a solution would be as completely unfeasible at the practical level as it would be undesirable at the moral level. Therefore, it could be suggested that although the Republicans staunchly oppose Obama’s action, they are for the most part negating the move of their enemy without offering an realistic solution of their own.
Moreover, one further point worth considering is the fact that the Republicans probably cannot afford to speak too openly about their hostility against Obama’s executive order. This would be because the executive order will clearly be celebrated within the Hispanic population: again, according to Krogstad and Passel, the large majority of beneficiaries of the order will consist of illegal immigrants from Mexico.
In this context, if the Republicans were to become excessively vocal about their opposition, then this would surely alienate the Hispanic population from the party; and this would make it quite difficult for Republicans to secure legislative victories over the coming times. Therefore, it would seem that whatever the merits of flaws of Obama’s stance on immigration is, it is very much in congruence with the political spirit of the times, and that the Republicans may have difficulties with challenging it while simultaneously avoiding self-destructive positions as a party.
In summary, this essay on social policy has consisted of a discussion of Obama’s recent immigration reform. It began with a reflection on his stance on immigration, proceeded to an evaluation of that stance, described his recent executive order on this subject, and then proceeded to reflect on the potential implications of this order. In the final analysis, it must be conceded at the very least that Obama clearly has a coherent vision of what he would like immigration policy within the nation to be, and that he is taking active steps toward making that vision into a reality.
This vision is surely at odds with how the Republicans would like things to be; but the Republicans face the weakness of not having a pragmatically workable vision of their own and also the pressure of not alienating potential constituencies within a very diverse nation.
Want to learn more about immigration reform? Check out this critical analysis on Documented, a documentary about undocumented immigrants.
Blake, Aaron. “Why President Obama Just Made Comprehensive Immigration Reform Tougher.” Washington Post 1 Dec. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. .
Donato, Katharine M., Jorge Durand, and Douglas S. Massey. “Stemming the Tide? Assessing the Deterrent Effects of the Immigration Reform and Control Act.” Demography 29.2 (1992): 139-157. Print.
Krogstad, Jens Manuel, and Jeffrey S. Passel. “Those from Mexico Will Benefit Most from Obama’s Executive Action.” Pew Research Center. 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. .
Melo, Grace, Gregory Colson, and Octavio A. Ramirez. “Hispanic American Opinions toward Immigration and Immigration Policy Reform Proposals.” Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 36.3 (2014). Web. 1 Dec. 2014. .
Obama, Barack. “Transcript: Obama’s Immigration Speech.” Washington Post 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. .
White House. “Immigration.” Issues. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. .
Wolgin, Philip E., and Angela Maria Kelley. “The Public’s View of Immigration.” American Center for Progress. 15 Dec. 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2011/12/15/10759/the-publics-view-of-immigration/>.