Obama’s Executive Order – Playing Political Games With Young Immigrants’ Lives

On Friday last week, President Obama made an announcement that his administration would put an end to the deportation of young immigrants who were brought to this country as children. On the surface this seems like a move to correct a serious wrong that is being done to these young people. But in fact it is simply a political maneuver against the Republican Party and Mitt Romney. In fact Obama’s administration has had one of the harshest anti-immigrant policies in recent history. Many young immigrants have grown up in the United States. They have spent their childhoods here, gone to school here, and this country is the only one that they know. Are we supposed to punish children for the immigration status of their parents? It is shameful that even one such young person would be deported to a country which they have never really known. But thousands of young people without legal status are deported every year. Obama’s executive order is the most limited possible solution to this injustice. Obama himself has said “This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix.” In other words, this is just a gesture to make it seem like he is doing something. But what else can we expect? The Obama administration’s record on immigration stands for itself. Under the Obama administration the number of deportations of immigrants has been twice as many as during the Bush administration. Obama has increased funding and troop deployment to the Southern border of the United States. Today there are thousands more border control agents and National Guard troops patrolling the border with Mexico. In addition the Obama administration has begun using Predator drones at the border. This is the type of unmanned military aircraft used in Afghanistan. If anything Obama is the most anti-immigrant president in recent history. The executive order that the Obama administration issued last Friday changes none of this. All it does is put Mitt Romney and the Republicans in a difficult position. Many politicians in the Republican Party have made anti-immigrant scapegoating a central theme of their campaigns. But they still want Latino voters who are dissatisfied with Obama to vote for Mitt Romney in the election this November! The real problem is that undocumented immigrants are abused in this society. They work the worst and most difficult jobs. Then in an economic crisis, they are blamed for competing with workers who are U.S. citizens. Undocumented immigrants make up five percent of the total U.S. workforce. But these immigrants make up a quarter of the workers in industries like construction, agriculture, and meatpacking. What’s more, undocumented immigrants pay seven billion dollars into the Social Security fund every year – money they will never collect. None of these facts stop the politicians from placing blame on immigrants for the high unemployment numbers. Mitt Romney has appealed to this feeling during his campaign. Speaking about the problems facing young immigrants he dismissed them saying “our kids have enough competition.” While this racist blame might distract some voters, it doesn’t work on the thousands of Latino voters in states like Florida where Romney hopes to win votes. Obama’s executive order puts Romney in a difficult position. Either he must attack Obama’s executive order and lose the Latino vote, or take back the anti-immigrant statements he has made in the past. Regardless, this executive order changes very little for immigrants. Some young people will be allowed to remain in this country where they grew up, and that is good. But this is nothing compared to what immigrant workers deserve. It is an insult that the politicians are playing this political game with people’s lives, especially the lives of young people. It is above all an insult to young immigrants and their families, but it is also an insult to the rest of us who are supposed to believe this has anything to do with the economic crisis we are suffering. We should not be fooled by the political game being played by Obama and the Democrats, or by the Republicans and Mitt Romney. The problem in this economy is not immigrant workers, it is the wealthy corporations who are making all of us pay for their crisis, regardless of our immigration status.