DREAM ACT: We educated these children, shouldn't they give back to our economy?

Obama administration's decision to cease deporting & grant work permits to would-be DREAM ACT beneficiaries may be political, but is also replicates a past Republican amnesty & could boost economy. Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Montsivais

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2012 - “This is not amnesty, this is not immunity.  This is not a path to citizenship.  It’s not a permanent fix.  This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.”

That is how President Obama described his administration’s decision to begin a policy to cease the deportation of 800,000 young foreign nationals in the country without proper documentation and authorization.  The US will no longer deport children whose parents brought them to America- children who grew up as Americans. 

This morning, Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano announced that the federal government will begin granting 2-year renewable work permits to those young people. 

The Dream Act

The President’s remarks were interrupted by journalist and conservative writer for The Daily Caller Neil Munro who shouted “foreigners over American workers” at Obama before the President could tell him he will not be interrupted while speaking.

Some are calling the move a political one to placate the Hispanic base which many say will be the demographic and voting bloc that would decide the 2012 presidential election. Certainly, it leapfrogs a plan Republican Senator Marco Rubio (FL) had been drafting which would have granted certain rights for children of undocumented and illegal immigrants.

Several have cried foul and denounced the move as an overreach of Presidential authority saying that only Congress can grant relief to illegal immigrants. They say the government will now have to start providing public benefits, like welfare and food stamps and  the move will take jobs away from Americans.

First, relief required today does not grant rights to any benefits other than the benefit of paying taxes and contributing to the social security system. Last time checked, revenues and social security could use a boost.

Second, when several local jurisdictions and states put in place laws to drive out their illegal immigrant population, businesses closed down and others complained that the American workers who took their place asked for too many breaks, didn’t show up for work, demanded much and did little, had poor work ethic and some simply thought the work was beneath them. 

The majority of jobs taken by immigrants include low-pay, low-wage jobs, picking fruit, working long hours doing back breaking work gardening, cleaning homes and caring for the elderly in nursing homes – jobs many Americans refuse to do.

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Read Also: DREAM Act: Obama stops deportation of children of illegal immigrants

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Alabama businesses reported sales dropping by 60 percent in the state after it passed a tough immigration law. Closed businesses cannot be good for the economy so the argument about taking away American jobs is still up in the air.

And to all those who decry that law breakers are being rewarded and that they are taking jobs away from Americans under this Democratic president, please recall that in 1986 Republican President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants.

Indeed the American immigration system is broken. However, recent trends show things are changing. A recent PEW Hispanic Center study showed a net gain in immigrants from Mexico at zero for the first time last year.

“[T]oday, there are fewer illegal crossings than at any time in the past 40 years,” the President said during his White House Rose Garden remarks this afternoon.

Still a PEW Research Center study indicated that there are an estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants in the United States based on US Census data through March 2008.  

However, it is also still worth also reminding Americans, as this blog noted on this subject two years ago, this is a nation predominantly made up of immigrants whose ancestors would likely not qualify to enter America under today’s standards that require an American sponsor via marriage or work.

In the day gone by, when families arrived in the U.S., there were no numerical limitations on immigration, no requirements to have an existing family or employment relationship with someone in the U.S., and no requirement to obtain a visa prior to arriving. 

As numerical limitations were instituted and certain immigrants were restricted from entering the U.S., illegal immigration increased. 

The definition of who was “legal” and who was “illegal” changed with the evolution of immigration laws. In fact, many American families might not have been allowed to enter the United States if today’s requirements were applied to their ancestors. 

Furthermore, throughout history early immigrants, many from Europe, benefitted from a form of amnesty that was really just lenient and subjective application of the immigration laws.  

The Immigration Policy Center writes: 

Acknowledging the large numbers of illegal Europeans in the U.S., the government devised ways for them to remain in the U.S. legally.  *Deserving* illegal European immigrants could benefit from various programs and legalize their status.  The 1929 Registry Act allowed *honest law-abiding alien[s] who may be in the country under some merely technical irregularity* to register as permanent residents for a fee of $20 if they could prove they had lived in the U.S. since 1921 and were of *good moral character.*  Roughly 115,000 immigrants registered between 1930 and 1940—80% were European or Canadian.  Between 1925 and 1965, 200,000 illegal Europeans legalized their status through the Registry Act, through *pre-examination*—a process that allowed them to leave the U.S. voluntarily and re-enter legally with a visa (a *touch-back* program)—or through discretionary rules that allowed immigration officials to suspend deportations in *meritorious* cases.  Approximately 73% of those benefitting from suspension of deportation were Europeans (mostly Germans and Italians).

Today, roughly 65,000 undocumented youth graduate from high school every year.

“It makes no sense to expel talented young people, who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans — they’ve been raised as Americans; understand themselves to be part of this country — to expel these young people who want to staff our labs, or start new businesses, or defend our country simply because of the actions of their parents,” Obama said.

And for certain, while some say immigration is a state issue, in recent years, states themselves have recognized that it is not in their economic interest to wholesale block young immigrant kids from college.

The Utah legislature had to backtrack on a plan to remove its in-state policy when it realized it risked losing 1.5 million in tuition revenue from those students had it not reverted its policy.  In fact, recognizing  the value of the tuition dollars and contribution, 10 states, including Texas, Utah and Nebraska grant in-state tuition to undocumented youngsters.   

Indeed, immigrants wanting to educate themselves create real value to the economy and society that cannot be denied.

In the end, without a policy that would enable more to attend college, Americans would still lose out as our safety and security would be compromised by those opting for a more dangerous route.  Furthermore, the cost of prosecuting and deporting any youthful offenders would also bear a burden on our economy.  

That was the calculus that the administration made in coming to its decision today, of course without retribution. Certainly, we can expect judicial challenges, protest and other responses to this move.

In the meantime, today is a day for thousands of young people facing deportation to rejoice in the knowledge they won’t be returned to a home they know little to nothing about and begin contributing their part to building the economy.

We educated them and it’s the least they can do to give back, right?

Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read at JenebaSpeaks.com and Politic365.  She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right of Black which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.


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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
 
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
 
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
 
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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