Conservative Argument for President Obama’s Executive Immigration Policy
The federal government is too big. Even worse, America’s problems seem too big for our elected leaders. The President and Congress have failed to deal with our national debt, our national deficit, our anemic economic growth, or our immigration quagmire. We have three levels of government in the United States, federal, state, and local. The state and local levels of government are closest to the citizenry and should deal with the majority of our public political issues. Conservatives want problems solved with the least use of government power possible. Conservatives do not want a weak federal government, conservatives want an efficient federal government. Unquestionably, two areas where the federal government must act are the areas of national security and immigration.
We have over 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. This is a situation over two decades in the making. The past two years have shown that enforcement and attrition strategies are too small of a solution to deal with such a large number of people. Most of those 11.2 million people are good people who stay out of trouble, work hard, and are good members of their communities. However, their number is so large that even a small percentage of problem-makers means hundreds of thousands of people in the country damaging our communities. The numbers of unauthorized immigrants is a direct result of three failures of federal power. One, the borders have only recently been operationally secure. For over two decades there was not enough of a deterrent to “sneaking” across the border. It was relatively cheap and easy. Only recent security changes have substantially disincentivized illegal border crossings. However, many unauthorized immigrants did enter lawfully though a border checkpoint or airport. They just never left. Almost eleven years after 9/11 we still lack the resources and will to track down visa overstays. This, like illegal border crossings, is an issue of incentives. The likelihood of getting caught as a visa overstay is too small. The third failure of federal power is the inability to create a logical, transparent, and clear national immigration code. The federal immigration laws are similar to the tax code, too complex and lacking and overall schema.
These failures of federal power endanger the United States. The large number of unauthorized immigrants essentially provides cover to the small number of public safety threats, criminals, and national security threats. The haystack is too big to find the needle. Congress has failed to address the immigration quagmire in any systematic way, instead choosing to act ad hoc, largely in appropriations bills, adding to the tangle of laws and regulations.
President Obama has taken a step towards easing the immigration problem. Solving the problem would require the cooperation of Congress. The President used his authority to enforce the laws and is using prosecutorial discretion. One of the dangers of a large unauthorized immigrant population is that, by definition, these people live off of the government’s radar screen, off the grid. The President is effectively removing 12.5% of the unknown by giving them a string incentive to come out of the shadows. He is also choosing the group that presents the smallest public safety or national security threat, likely speaks the best English, and is most easily assimilated into American culture. The President is not granting anyone amnesty or providing a new way of obtaining citizenship or lawful status to this group. The President, by using the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) division to administer the paperwork is passing the cost of the deferred action implementation onto the immigrant beneficiaries. USCIS is fee supported. The filing fees it collects pay for its operation. Thus, the large influx of applicants are not going to cause a hit the budget, instead they will pay for the administrative costs out of their filing fees.
The immigration quagmire, like the debt, deficit, and anemic economic growth, still needs a comprehensive and innovative solution. The new policy does not solve the problem. However, President Obama is using federal power appropriately. He is using limited federal power to bring in a sizable part of the shadow population into the light, without giving away more entitlements, and without more costs to the taxpayer. Given the current state of our divided Congress, it is up to Republicans to solve the other 90% of the immigration puzzle. President Obama may not have done anything else that can be considered politically conservative, but his June 15th immigration policy is just what a conservative should want, except that it also helps him in his reelection efforts, no conservative wants that.