Gridlocked Congress, Gridlocked Lives


After President Obama announced that he would tackle the messy immigration system without Congress, the backlash began immediately. For decades immigrant right activists have been been pressuring Obama to push for immigration reform. His recent executive action will grant undocumented immigrants whose children are either US citizens or legal permanent residents work permits. And politicians are doing everything in their power to prevent this from happening.

DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, would allow for 5 million undocumented immigrant parents to seek new opportunities for themselves and their families with temporary lawful work permits for three years. Accepted applicants will receive a temporary social security number, which they can use for employment. This program is expected to increase the country’s GDP by up to 0.9 percent, which is $90 to $210 over the next ten years. In turn, the deficit would decrease by $25 billion over ten years and the American labor workforce would expand by nearly 150,00 people in the same amount of time, according to the National Immigration Law Center.

But DAPA is only a three-year work permit—it would not result in a pathway to citizenship or complete assurance of not being deported. If the US were to grant the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country lawful residency, the US economy would flourish by $1.5 trillion.

Despite the existence of these numbers, lawmakers have chosen to ignore them, and have instead focused on removing Obama’s executive actions on immigration. For instance, as soon as the Republican-led Congress returned from recess they made it their priority to pass a bill that would eliminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that allows for young immigrants who were brought here as children to apply for a work permit. Considering that the President would never sign to remove his own program, this was not the smartest move on Congresses’ part.

More recently, DAPA was put on halt on February 16th, two days before the application process was originally planned to begin. Proudly led by Texas, 26 states have filed a lawsuit against the White House because they claim that the President acted outside of his constitutional rights. Texas Governor Greg Abbott declares that his state cannot afford to pay for the driver’s licenses that undocumented parents would apply for, completely ignoring the economic boost that Texas would experience with the implementation for DAPA. US District Judge Andrew S. Hagen, a judge infamous for ruling in favor of conservative cases, argued that the Obama administration did not follow federal law when adopting new federal rules.

Thankfully, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will seek an emergency stay that would overturn the injunction at the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. If granted, the executive action programs should be up and running by May. Meanwhile, prospective applicants have put their lives further on hold. And if the ruling sides with Hagen, the case will proceed to the Supreme Court, extending the waiting game for families.

To add to the madness, the House of Representatives passed HR 240, a bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) while also defunding DAPA and DACA for the fiscal year of 2015. Republicans are willing to sacrifice 30,000 jobs funded by DHS in order to shift the blame on the opposing party. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have actively been blaming Democrats for voting “no” on  a bill that failed to pass the senate.

Basically, Republicans are placing a gun to their own heads and threatening to shoot if Democrats refuse to comply with their demands. That way, if they do pull the trigger they can  blame Democrats for their death, or the defunding of the DHS.

The constant accusation of undocumented immigrants being the problem for the country’s economy is a mere distraction from the real issue. Keeping 11 million people invisible allows for employers to mistreat their undocumented workers by paying them below minimum wage and demanding excessive working hours.

But if politicians did get their wish to deport all undocumented people, the National Immigration Law Center concluded that citizen unemployment would increase by 1.6 percent and citizen wages would reduce by 0.8 percent. It is virtually unrealistic to deport all undocumented immigrants and it would cost around $20 billion to do so.

The reality is that undocumented immigrants do pay taxes. I know this because I am one. Undocumented immigrants are not taking jobs from native-born Americans. We are actually doing the jobs no one else wants to do and receiving ridiculously low wages for doing them. Undocumented immigrants are not benefiting from social welfare programs because we don’t qualify for them!

I do hope that enough people acknowledged Alejandro Gonzalez Iñaritu’s comment when winning the Academy Award for best picture award for Birdman, who asked his audience to recognize the oppressive lives that undocumented people face daily and discarded Sean Penn’s horrible attempt at a joke about the acclaimed director’s residency.

There needs to be more recognition and raised awareness on this American problem to encourage politicians to make the right decisions. Congress is not incapable of compromise across political parties but instead, it chooses to perform on petty disagreements that benefit no one. The lives of people are being played with little to no consideration on how this is affecting undocumented immigrants in real life.


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