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April 2016, Volume 22, Number 2

DAPA, Politics, Economics

On November 20, 2014, President Obama issued an executive order creating the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program and expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to give up to five million of the 11 million unauthorized foreigners in the US a temporary legal status.

Texas and 25 other states sued, alleging that that DAPA and expanded DACA would impose costs on them and should have been subject to formal rulemaking. Federal district and appeals courts agreed with Texas, issuing injunctions to prevent DAPA from going into effect.

The US Supreme Court in April 2016 will hear the Obama administration's appeal. The major arguments are whether the president has constitutional authority to suspend enforcement against large groups of unauthorized foreigners. House and Senate Republicans filed briefs in support of Texas and the other states alleging that Obama overstepped his executive authority with DAPA and expanded DACA.

The Obama administration argued that, since applicants for three-year work permits will be considered individually, DAPA does not violate the constitution. Texas and the states argue that a blanket grant of "lawful presence" to unauthorized foreigners violates the constitutional requirement that the president "take care" to faithfully execute the laws, including those against illegal migration.

Politics. New York City businessman Donald Trump won most of the Republican primary elections in the winter and spring of 2016. He promised to "make America great again" by re-negotiating trade deals with China and other countries and building a wall on the Mexico-US border to prevent illegal migration.

Trump said that as president he would require Mexico to pay $5 billion to $10 billion to build the wall. If the Mexican government refused to pay, Trump would try to block remittances from the US to Mexico. US remittances to Mexico were about $25 billion in 2015, and many were sent via Western Union and MoneyGram, which are not required to follow the same customer-identification procedures as when a customer opens a new account with a bank. If Mexico did not pay, Trump would amend the USA Patriot Act to reclassify all money transfers as "accounts" so that customers would have to provide identification and prove legal immigration status.

Trump made a series of proposals, including a tripling of the number of ICE agents who enforce immigration laws inside the US, requiring all employers to use E-Verify to check new hires, and requiring all US employers to try to recruit US workers before receiving permission to hire H-1B workers. He also promised to deport the 11 million unauthorized foreigners who are in the US in a "humane" manner with a special "deportation force."

There were many media reports about Trump's appeal to white working class men anxious about their future in the globalizing economy. Many Americans with high-school diplomas and associate degrees have had falling real wages, and some blame freer trade and increased immigration. Most economists advise such Americans to get more education and training so that they can obtain more skilled jobs. However, many US workers who enroll in training programs have trouble finding jobs that pay higher wages for newly won skills.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Trump said they would not legalize unauthorized foreigners in the US, while former candidates Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and ex-FL Governor Jeb Bush said that they would consider legalization after the US-Mexico border is "secure." After Republican candidates lost to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, some Republicans called for a less restrictionist approach to unauthorized migration in order to win support among Hispanics, some of whom have unauthorized relatives.

Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) made a surprisingly strong showing against the favorite for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, by emphasizing growing economic inequality and the outsize influence of Wall Street in US politics. Clinton attacked Sanders for opposing comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 that would have offered a path to US citizenship for unauthorized foreigners. Sanders said he had opposed the bill because it would have increased the number of guest workers in the US.

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