President Obama thwarted the will of Congress and shunned the 20 million under-employed and unemployed Americans by announcing he will grant work permits to 2 million to 3 million illegal immigrants.
This appears to be an unconstitutional fiat that not only usurps congressional authority to set immigration policy but directly contradicts what Congress has already decided. The president suggests that his new policy is designed to enact as much of the DREAM Act amnesty as possible because Congress hasn't acted on its own. But Congress indeed has acted -- three times in votes that rejected granting these illegal aliens the legal residency and work permits that the president now says he will deal out all by himself.
This is a knee-jerk response to pro-amnesty interest groups that have attacked Mr. Obama with an intense, well-funded public relations campaign urging him essentially to nullify congressional immigration laws because supporters of amnesty know that the elected representatives of the American people won't approve amnesties any more. Until today, the president had said that he couldn't just overturn immigration laws on his own. His capitulation may provide a short-term political payoff among some special interest groups but in the long term will feed the perception that he is much more interested in currying favor among narrow interest groups than addressing the needs of the massive ranks of the unemployed.
The unavoidable fact is that Mr. Obama's announced executive amnesty will increase the supply of legal workers to compete for jobs with the 20 million Americans who can't find a job or have been forced into part-time work. The president may think he can repeal the laws of Congress but he can't repeal the law of supply and demand.
And the increase in the labor supply will not be small. Most news reports at first suggested that around 800,000 illegal aliens would benefit from the president's offer of job permits. But that is a misinterpretation of estimates in 2010 about the effect of the DREAM Act amnesty that the lame duck Senate defeated. There were nearly 2 million illegal aliens who could qualify for the provisional part of the amnesty because they were in high school, in college or had already graduated from college. But only about 800,000 were expected to actually end up as college graduates and qualify for the permanent amnesty. Because the new Obama amnesty would not require college graduation, the 800,000 figure is no longer valid. All 2 million would qualify. In addition, the Obama amnesty would not require a person to even go to college which would add hundreds of thousands more illegal aliens to the beneficiary list.
When the president announced his new more lenient directive last summer for people who would have benefited from the DREAM amnesty, he was skating close to the legal line but probably not over it because Congress indeed has given presidents prosecutorial discretion in whether to go through the effort to deport an illegal immigrant. It also has given presidents the ability to provide temporary work permits to illegal aliens in special circumstances.
But President Obama has moved into frightening new territory with his new announcement because he has taken discretion away from his law enforcement agents and now appears to require them to grant this presence amnesty and jobs amnesty in massive numbers never intended or anticipated by Congress. And it is the jobs promise that is the most insulting and insensitive to the most vulnerable members of our national community.
The most vulnerable Americans are disproportionately black and Hispanic Americans, two voting blocs the president is counting on for his re-election. Yet, these two groups with exceptionally high unemployment among young adults are the ones who will have to compete most directly with the millions of illegal aliens that the president intends to add to the labor force.
What Mr. Obama – and all the Members of Congress proposing their own versions of a DREAM amnesty -- miss is that young illegal aliens aren't the only ones having a hard time. The country is full of American victims of this economy. The latter should not be re-victimized by efforts to help the former.
The Republican leadership in Congress may bear considerable responsibility for Mr. Obama's latest power grab. It has stood by terrified to tackle immigration priorities the last two years.. Speaker John Boehner and his team are currently center stage in blocking a mandatory E-Verify bill that would provide employment for millions of Americans by moving illegal immigrants from the very construction, hospitality, manufacturing, service and transportation jobs sought by most unemployed U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. Republican leaders have allowed Pres. Obama to ignore and modify congressional immigration laws so consistently that it isn't surprising that he thinks he can get by with this huge new executive amnesty. Perhaps this latest pandering by the president will finally move them to action to stand up for the 20 million Americans who can't find a full-time job.
Roy Beck is the founder and president of NumbersUSA.
Roy Beck, a former journalist and author of public policy books, is president of the non-partisan NumbersUSA Education Research Foundation, founded in 1996 to promote the recommendations of the Barbara Jordan Commission.