Some undocumented immigrants in the country are very happy tonight – about 4.3 million. But some 6 million are disappointed. President Obama’s announcement of a set of executive orders on immigration is a major step toward fixing the status of unauthorized immigrants. But, no doubt, the moment feels bittersweet. As an advocate told me tonight: “It’s a victory, but it’s a partial victory.”
There are, of course, inevitable repercussions that will stem from this unilateral action. Here are the winners and losers:
Obama’s rating with Hispanics: Since 2012, the president’s approval rate among Latinos has dropped over 20 points, according to Gallup. But Obama’s use of his executive power to address the issue of our broken immigration system – even with a Band-Aid approach like this one – will surely reverse that trend. In June, polling from Latino Decisions showed that 87 percent of Latinos supported Obama’s unilateral action to provide temporary relief from deportation to millions of unauthorized immigrants who have US-born children. It also represents a win for the Democratic Party, since this action begins to solidify the support of the Hispanic vote for 2016.
Immigrant advocates: Let’s be honest here. The president’s decision to finally issue executive orders on immigration is in reality the result of hard work by many community-based organizations throughout the country that have been relentlessly pressuring Obama to stop waiting for Congress. “The president is not doing this because he is good and kind,” Patricia Montes, executive director of Somerville-based Centro Presente, said. “He is doing it because we have been demanding that he uses his executive power to help immigrants.”
High-tech: Even though Obama can’t increase the cap on temporary skilled-worker visas (H-1B), a chief concern of the high-tech industry, he intends to enact administrative changes to streamline some of the long immigration processes high-skilled workers typically encounter.
Border Patrol: The already dysfunctional government agency is going to get more resources. “Today, there are 3,000 additional Border Patrol agents along the Southwest Border and our border fencing, unmanned aircraft surveillance systems, and ground surveillance systems have more than doubled since 2008,” states a White House fact sheet on the executive order. What’s troubling is that this is not going to stop Republican politicians from demanding to throw even more money to secure the border with Mexico – already one of most militarized borders in the world.
Any hope for political consensus and bipartisanship in Congress: By acting unilaterally, Obama irked Republican leaders on Capitol Hill who not only vowed to fight the president, but will now very likely not address a comprehensive immigration reform bill. These changes are limited and only represent a temporary fix. Given how damaged Obama’s relationship with the new Republican-led Congress is now, the chances of legislators passing immigration reform are pretty low.
Secure Communities: The controversial immigration enforcement program – in which local police assist in holding immigrants for deportation – is finally being replaced with a new priority enforcement program. This new approach at identifying and removing undocumented criminals will be carried out in a way that is compatible with maintaining the community’s trust.
The major broadcast networks: NBC, CBS, Fox, and ABC declined to carry Obama’s primetime immigration speech live, citing its overtly political nature. (Wait — isn’t that always the case with every presidential address to the nation?) But they just didn’t want to preempt their coveted Thursday night programming. Here’s another example of the TV industry putting commercial interests first; they deprived their audience of a major public policy event.
The DREAMERs’ parents: There was a lot of disappointment among DREAMERs, the undocumented immigrants who were brought as children to the US who were granted temporary relief from deportation and work permits in 2012 through an executive order. They had been hoping their parents would be included in Obama’s executive orders outlined tonight. Reportedly, the White House wanted to extend the same protections to the parents of DREAMERs but believed it couldn’t build one executive action on top of another.