TThe Devil is in the Details

The Devil is in the Details

© David Burton 2014


     President Obama has just announced that he is issuing an executive order that will potentially benefit some 5 million illegal immigrants. The government’s spin on President Obama’s executive order reads as follows:

     “On November 20, 2014, the President announced a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
     “These initiatives include:
     “Expanding the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to young people who came to this country before turning 16 years old and have been present since January 1, 2010, and extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years
     “Allowing parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been present in the country since January 1, 2010, to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, in a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, provided they pass required background checks
     “Expanding the use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence to include the spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
     “Modernizing, improving and clarifying immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs
     “Promoting citizenship education and public awareness for lawful permanent residents and providing an option for naturalization applicants to use credit cards to pay the application fee.” (Ref. 1)

     To me, his announcement seemed to present a reasonable start to addressing the dilemma of some 11 million illegal or undocumented aliens that are believed to reside in the United States. BUT, as with ObamaCare, while the initial pronouncement sounds great, it’s the devil that resides in the actual facts and the details of the president’s plan that will determine whether or not the plan is actually a good one.

     I won’t even go into whether or not the president’s actions constitute a usurpation of congressional power and an affront to Republicans and conservatives who immediately and indignantly rose up in opposition.

     The most substantial change extends protection from deportation to about 5 million unauthorized immigrants in the US. They would be eligible to apply for 3 years of relief from deportation and for work permits if they arrived in the US before 2010 and arrived in the US under the age of 16. They would also be eligible if they arrived in the US before 2010 and had at least one child who is a US citizen or legal resident. I would describe this as “temporary amnesty.”

     In order to actually receive protection from deportation, immigrants will have to apply and pay a fee that could be several hundred dollars. Approval of the application would result in "deferred action" which would offer protection from deportation for three years. Immigrants who receive deferred action could also receive work permits, which would allow them to legally work in the U.S. during that period of time

     NOTE: Even with a work permit, Immigrants who get deferred action are still unauthorized. They're not legal, and they're not getting a path to citizenship. The President by executive order cannot grant legal citizenship - only Congress can decide who should qualify for legal status.

     Deferred action can be taken away very easily. A future president could easily strip protection from deportation to all the immigrants covered by the Obama administration, which would allow them to be deported.
     Under the "Secure Communities" portion of the program, the federal government will, from now on, only ask state and local officials to hand over an immigrant after he or she has been convicted of a serious crime or a third misdemeanor. Also, instead of asking the state or local jail to hold the immigrant after he or she would otherwise be released, federal agents will just ask local law enforcement to let them know when the immigrant is to be released.

     The Obama administration is overhauling its deportation priorities by targeting those immigrants for deportation who've been convicted of serious crimes, and people who entered the US or were ordered deported in 2014.

     The President’s executive order will allow spouses of immigrants who possess green-cards to apply for legal status in the US. The White House Council of Economic Advisors estimates this will create somewhere between 104,000 and 167,000 new work permits.

     President Obama is looking to expand a program that lets foreign students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields work in the United S tates for up to 2 1/2 years or so after they graduate. The program is called Optional Practical Training (OPT), and it currently allows students to work in the US for a year after graduation — but if they're STEM professionals, they can apply to stay for an additional 17 months. The OPT program was expanded in 2012 to cover more fields of study. It's estimated that anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 immigrants are currently in the US under the OPT program. Further revisions to the system would lead to 10,000-36,000 more OPT visas.

     The Obama administration is planning to make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs who invest in job-creating businesses to move to the United States. It’s estimated that this could allow 33,000-53,000 new immigrants via this channel.

     President Obama's executive action allocates more resources for border control, though it doesn't specify how much more money will go to the Customs and Border Patrol and to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A previous Senate bill that did not get approval from the House of Representatives would have allotted some $30 billion over 10 years to hiring at least 19,200 extra border patrol agents.

     As with most Americans, I believe “that this nation’s immigration system is badly broken and that there is a pressing need for real reform, for a genuine path to citizenship and for the stepped-up border security the president now insists he will implement . . .
      - - -
     “Obama’s executive order is designed to give amnesty to up to five million illegal immigrants who have lived here at least five years, protecting them from deportation and granting them work permits but not those all-important green cards.
     “But what {the president’s plan} truly is is a cruel joke on {these 5 million illegal immigrants} and on the American public . . .
      - - -
     “At best, {the executive order} sets up an entire tier of second-class citizens – people not eligible for green cards, not on a path to anything except years of limbo, and never eligible to vote –with no stake in life. [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “So, in short, this is a cruel joke, a hoax on an already vulnerable population and an affront to American voters who actually believe they elected a Congress to make the laws and a president to carry them out.” (Ref. 2)

     As noted, one element in the president’s announcement calls for additional money for U.S. border enforcement. “A more secure border, the thinking goes, should be the policy priority, not creating pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
     “But there’s a problem with that reasoning: the United States already has piled additional billions into border security creating Customs and Border Protection, which is now the largest law enforcement agency in the country, with 60,000 agents and staff. [Emphasis mine]
     “The number of border agents has nearly double in 10 years. (Ref. 3)

     Garrett M. Graff in Politico magazine describes “an overstaffed, dysfunctional Border Patrol, a force within Customs and Border Protection that is home to rogue agents and cloaked in secrecy. Many of the agency’s problems are attributed to its rapid growth . . .
     “{The Border Patrol} is likely one of the US government’s deadliest agencies, with 46 fatal shootings in the past 10 years.
     “The US government already spends a disproportionate amount of money on border and immigration and enforcement. [Emphasis mine](Ref. 3)

     “Since passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform Act, we have spent well in excess of $225 billion (in current dollars) enforcing our immigration laws, according to a report by {a} former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner. . . . In 2012 alone, we spent more on enforcing our borders than on all other federal criminal law enforcement – nearly a quarter more than we did on the FBI, ATF, DEA, Secret Service and U.S. Marshals Service combined!” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 4)

     Still, the President’s announced executive order calls for more money to be funneled to this agency! – a “small” detail.

     As President Obama noted in his address to the nation announcing his immigration order, “we are a nation of immigrants”. What he failed to mention was the fact that most of our ancestors who immigrated to these shores did so legally. My father and all four of my grandparents immigrated to America from Eastern Europe, but, they did so in full compliance with the laws of this country. They got in line and waited their turn. The five million undocumented aliens to whom the president is offering temporary amnesty have not come to America legally! Why should these five million who are in America illegally jump to the head of the line in front of the millions who have filed for legal entry into the United States and are waiting for action on their applications?

     Another detail of the president’s plan remains to be determined – will these five million undocumented aliens come forward to apply for the president’s temporary amnesty? Remember, the president’s executive order does not grant them citizenship; it does not provide them with a green card; it requires them to pay back taxes or a fee; it does not guarantee that they will not be deported after the three-year amnesty period is over; The president’s offer of temporary amnesty could be rescinded by the Republican-controlled congress next year. If you were in the undocumented immigrants’ shoes, would you take the president’s offer?

     So, while the executive action announced by the president seems to be a first step in the right direction, closer inspection does indeed raise many questions. Will this executive order prove effective? Will those whom this order is supposed to benefit actually sign up? What happens when the new GOP controlled congress comes into office? What about the other six million illegal immigrants that are not covered by President Obama’s temporary amnesty? What are the details that determine the success or failure of this plan? Clearly, the devil is in the details and we do not yet know all the details.


  1. Executive Actions on Immigration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Accessed 25 November 2014.
  2. An immigration hoax, Editorial, Boston Herald, Page 16, 21 November 2014.
  3. Border patrol needs to clean up, not more funding, Editorial, Boston Sunday Globe, Page K8, 23 November 2014.
  4. GOP shouldn’t take immigration bait, Linda Chavez, Boston Herald, Page 17, 24 November 2014.


  25 November 2014 {Article 204; Govt_55}    
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