With a 40 percent approval rating, there’s no doubt Obama will leave the Oval Office with some wrinkles in his tie. It’s hard to argue that his six years as President of the United States have been anything short of controversial.
Obama failed in Syria—the conflict continues today while the weapons he had intended to deliver to rebels ended up in the hands of ISIS. He promised foreign ambassador positions would be occupied by strictly the most qualified diplomats, but instead appointed political allies and wealthy campaign donors to nations they had never set foot in. Just recently, the public learned that Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” architect Jonathan Gruber had claimed the government-run insurance program passed due to the “stupidity” of the American people. The list goes on and on.
And after failing to work with Congress on an immigration plan, Obama has stepped up with one of his most controversial acts yet. On Nov. 20, President Obama announced he would use executive action to grant some five million illegal immigrants amnesty from deportation.
The President claims his order has four major principles. However, the conditions are more complex than they appear.
According to the White House, in order to qualify for legal status, one must either be a parent of a U.S. citizen as of the date of the announcement and have been in the United States for at least five years (starting on Jan. 1, 2010), or an individual who arrived in the U.S. before turning 16 years old and has continuously been present for at least five years (again, starting on Jan. 1, 2010).
Those signing up for deportation relief and potential work permits will be required to pass background checks and pay taxes and a penalty.
Pres. Obama has additionally addressed the legal immigration route, by assuring his act will provide visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses in the U.S.
The proposal cracks down on employers who exploit the system by knowingly hiring undocumented workers, and Obama asserts the act will strengthen border security and the ability to remove criminals.
Yet, Obama’s action has clearly raised some eyebrows—and not only from the usual right-wing suspects, but from the average taxpayer concerned with the slippery slope of immigration reform.
Health insurance is one of the major issues. In California, Congressman Ricardo Lara (D-CA) has proposed providing an estimated 690,000 to 730,000 undocumented immigrants with Medi-Cal, a Medicaid program which provides health insurance to low-income Californians with limited ability to pay for health coverage. Lara’s plan could mean $353 to $369 million in net state costs.
The nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center reports some eight million illegal immigrants are currently employed in the U.S., worrying some economists who suspect a path to citizenship for those workers reduces employment opportunities for young and undereducated native-born citizens.
In addition, there are no specific protections for farm workers or parents of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals-eligible immigrants. DACA, also known as the Dream Act, is a law which permits illegal immigrants who entered the United States before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to obtain a two-year work permit and exemption from deportation.
Another possible conflict is the possibility that our next president could use his or her own executive action to change the immigration law completely.
It’s not the first time a U.S. president has used executive power to act on immigration. Some 15,000 Ethiopians fleeing a Marxist regime were granted status by presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, while George H.W. Bush gave temporary visas to 2,227 Kuwaiti evacuees during Operation Desert Storm. Bill Clinton himself gave extended permission for 10,000 Liberians fleeing civil war to stay in the U.S.
However, no U.S. president before Obama has used his executive power to grant amnesty for such a broad scope of the population.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting applications in early to mid-2015, depending on the program.
“It’s gonna cause a lot of controversy over the whole separation of powers issue.” – Kyle Mowatt, senior
“[Immigrants are] still going to work for cheaper wages and take Americans’ jobs. They should all be learning English.” – Johnny Ruccello, senior
“I think it’s great for the immigrants over here because I believe getting licenses would make it easier to get to jobs.” – Israel Torres, senior
“I think what Obama is doing is wrong, and it should stay the same way because it has always worked.” – Mia Scholink, senior