In November of 2014, President Barack Obama announced a new immigration policy that would enable certain undocumented immigrants to apply for a program which would allow them to remain in the United States for three years and work legally. In order to qualify, immigrants would only have to meet two criteria. First, they must have children who are either legal United States Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents, also commonly referred to as Green Card Holders. Second, under the policy they would be required to have been in the United States since January of 2010.
Enraged that the new policy would allow an estimated four million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, twenty-six states brought the matter to federal court in an attempt to block it. In response, a federal judge issued an order to prevent the policy from going into effect. A federal appeals court later upheld the ruling. Recently, the Obama administration requested that the Supreme Court review the policy, and on January 19th, 2016, the Justices agreed. The Court will listen to oral arguments about the policy in April of this year, and a decision is expected to be announced sometime in June.
Before hearing oral arguments about the case, however, the Court agreed that it must decide whether the states who filed the lawsuit had the legal standing to do so. The idea is that the Supreme Court will only hear cases in which the parties are directly affected or injured by the policy in question. According to claimants, states affected by the policy could face significant costs if it is allowed to go into effect. They assert that some expenditures will likely be in increased healthcare, education and law enforcement. It was ruled by a lower court that the state of Texas, which plays a major role in the lawsuit, has the right to challenge the policy, and since at least one state has the right to file the lawsuit, the case can proceed.
The next factor in question, was whether or not the Obama Administration has the right to issue the new policy. Since Congress has given the Executive Branch the discretion to make decisions about deportation and immigration, it was argued that the Obama Administration does have the authority to issue the immigration policy. Opposing states disagreed, however, claiming that Congress intended the discretion to be applied on a case by case basis, not to create a policy that would affect an estimated four million immigrants and countless United States citizens.
Third, the Court must decide how federal agencies are required to notify the general public about such a policy and whether members of the public should be given the opportunity to weigh in on the policy in question.
Critical Elements of the Policy
Advocates claim that the proposed policy is certain to streamline legal immigration, which is said will have a positive impact on America’s economy. According to the White House, critical elements of the policy are:
- Crack Down at the Border: Under the new policy, the President plans to centralize command and control for border security to increase the chances that immigrants attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and returned.
- Deportation of Felons, Not Families: The policy will direct immigration enforcement to focus mainly on the deportation of immigrants who threaten public safety. This would include anyone who is suspected of terrorism, gang members and violent criminals.
- Taxes and Criminal Background Checks: The policy will enable qualifying undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and work legally without fear of deportation for a period of three years at a time. These immigrants, however, will be required to submit to and pass national security and criminal background checks and pay their share of taxes.
Benefits of the Policy
The process of obtaining legal immigration will be stream lined and our economy will almost certainly be boosted if the plan is, in fact, implemented.
- Portable work authorization for highly-skilled immigrants will make relocation and changing jobs more simple. In some situations under the current policy, workers with approved LPR applications wait years for their visas to become available.
- Enhanced options for foreign entrepreneurs meet certain criteria for contributing to our economy will help ensure that these individuals are encouraged to create jobs and generate revenue in America.
- Extending and improving on the job training for STEM graduates will encourage foreign students who study science, technology, engineering and mathematics at United States universities to remain in the U.S. after their studies are complete.
- Streamlining the process for employers and their workers and modernizing the current labor market test will enable employers who sponsor immigrant workers for employment to do so more efficiently.