Last Thursday, President Barack Obama announced sweeping executive actions to tackle the nation’s immigration policy. He laid out his plans in a prime time speech that was aired on CNN and Univision.
“First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over,” Obama said. “Second, I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed. Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country,”
Pundits agreed the most aggressive point that the President made throughout the speech was in regards to the estimated 11.4 million undocumented immigrants, as estimated by the Department of Homeland Security.
The reforms will allow undocumented parents of those who have been in the country for more than five years and who currently hold a green card or are U.S. citizens to avoid deportation. An expansion of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals also protects children who arrived in the United States before January 2010. The previous plan only gave protection to those who arrived before June 15, 2007.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, nearly 3.7 million unauthorized immigrant parents would be impacted by the new legislation, with the number of immigrants being affected by the updated DACA increasing to nearly 1.5 million.
“In addition to students who might now qualify for the expanded DACA program who didn’t previously, the current plan would also directly impact USC students to the extent that they are U.S. citizens/legal permanent residents, and their parents are undocumented,” said Emily Ryo, a professor at the Gould School of Law. “Many of those parents could now receive temporary protection from removal, which would prevent painful family separations — and that obviously would directly impact the well-being of our students who are in such mixed legal status families.”
California stands at the forefront of the nation’s immigration discussion.
“We are the state that has the most settled immigrant population in terms of people who have been in the country for 10 years,” said Manuel Pastor, a co-director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at USC in an interview with The New York Times.
The California Immigrant Policy Center and USC researchers released a joint study in September discussing the impact that immigrants have on the state economy.
“Undocumented immigrants in California alone contribute about $130 billion of California’s GDP — a figure greater than the entire GDP of the neighboring state of Nevada. Additionally, immigrant households make up 27% of the total household income in California, and thus represent a substantial share of all spending power in the state,” the report stated.
President Obama’s executive actions come after failed reform attempts by the White House in 2013 and under President Bush in 2007.
“I think it’s quite understandable what the President has done given the political deadlock on comprehensive immigration reform that’s happened in the past,” Ryo said.