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July 2016, Volume 22, Number 3

DAPA Blocked, Politics

The US Supreme Court in June 2016 on a 4-4 tie vote let stand an appeals court decision to block President Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, which would have issued three-year work permits to over 3.6 million unauthorized parents with legal US children. The court's tie vote also blocks an expansion of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, for an additional 400,000 unauthorized foreigners who arrived in the US before the age of 16.

After the decision, President Obama said he did not anticipate "additional executive actions" on immigration during the remainder of his term in office. Some Obama supporters said he failed to act soon enough after taking office in 2009 to legalize unauthorized foreigners.

DACA issues two-year work and residence permits to unauthorized foreigners who arrived in the US before age 16 and have a high school diploma and were in the US before June 15, 2012. Four years later, some 728,285 unauthorized foreign youth have paid the $465 application fee and received a two-year legal status under DACA that allows them to work and to obtain driver's licenses.

After midterm elections on November 20, 2014, Obama announced DAPA and an expansion of DACA. Texas and 25 other states sued, arguing that it was unlawful for Obama to protect unauthorized foreigners who should be removed, and that granting them even temporary legal status would impose costs on the states, such as the cost of issuing them driver's licenses. Obama countered that granting some unauthorized foreigners temporary legal status was simply setting enforcement priorities.

The underlying issue is the fate of 11 million unauthorized foreigners in the US. Donald Trump and many Republicans say that they can and should be removed. Hillary Clinton and many Democrats say that most should be able to earn immigrant status and eventual US citizenship. DAPA plus DACA could have given temporary legal status to almost half of the unauthorized.

Unauthorized foreigners in the US face low odds of deportation unless convicted of US crimes. Under the Priority Enforcement Program announced in November 2014, the targets of interior enforcement efforts are convicted criminals and Central Americans who arrived since 2014 and whose applications for asylum were rejected. The number of foreigners deported fell from a peak 410,000 in 2012 to 235,000 in 2015.

Politics. Donald Trump lists seven priorities for action if elected president, while Hillary Clinton lists more than 20.

Immigration represents one of the starkest choices between the Republican and Democratic candidates for president. Two of Trump's seven priorities deal with immigration: a $5 billion to $10 billion wall on the Mexico-US border paid for by Mexicans and the "humane deportation" of 11 million unauthorized foreigners in the US. Trump says that, when migrants realize he is serious about removing unauthorized foreigners, many will leave on their own, so called self-deportation.

Mexicans in the US send about $25 billion a year to Mexico. If the Mexican government did not pay for the wall, Trump would amend the USA Patriot Act to require those sending money from the US to prove that they are legally in the US, which could block remittances from unauthorized foreigners in the US.

After the killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June 2016 by a US citizen with Afghan-born parents, Trump repeated his call for a temporary ban on Muslim migration to the US. Trump said he would "suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism" against the United States or its allies, an act that the US president has the authority to do.

Clinton supports comprehensive immigration reform, a package that includes earned legalization that culminates in US citizenship, more enforcement to prevent illegal migration in the future, and new guest worker programs. Clinton in April 2016 promised to create a national Office of Immigrant Affairs to coordinate federal, state and local government programs to help integrate immigrants, refugees and their children into communities.

Clinton has also promised to re-launch DAPA and expand DACA if she is elected.

Trump's major base of support is among white working-class voters opposed to globalization. He has less than 20 percent support among the 27 million Hispanics eligible to vote in November 2016, when Hispanics are expected to be 12 percent of eligible voters. Blacks tend to vote 90-10 for Democrats and Asian Americans 70-30 for Democrats.

The economy offers another stark choice. Unemployment has fallen from 10 to five percent, but real median family income is lower in 2016 than it was in 2006. Trump, who promises six percent economic growth, has promised tax cuts of up to $10 trillion over the next decade, fewer "burdensome" federal regulations, "pro-growth" energy policies, and "tough" trade policies, including tariffs on imports from China and Mexico.

Clinton favors higher federal minimum wage, more federal funds for training and education, and $275 billion for infrastructure, paid for by $1.1 trillion in additional taxes over the next decade.

Candidates need 270 electoral votes to be elected president. Since 1992, 18 states including California and New York have voted consistently for the Democratic presidential candidate, giving Democrats 242 "firm" electoral votes. Republicans can count on about 200 electoral votes, which means the election is likely to be determined in battleground states such as Florida, Ohio and Colorado.

Flake. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in April 2016 introduced the Willing Workers and Willing Employers Act of 2016 to create a 10-year pilot H-2C program for foreign workers with less than college degrees to fill year-round nonfarm jobs; the H-2A and H-2B programs admit foreign workers to fill seasonal US jobs.

Registered employers in areas with unemployment rates equal to or below the US rate could attest that they tried and failed to find US workers and did not lay off US workers. These employers could then receive permission to hire up to 65,000 foreign workers in the first year, with the number rising and falling with labor market demand.

Foreign workers would receive renewable three-year work visas and could change from one registered employer to another. They could not bring their family members into the US.

Agriculture. The National Milk Producers Federation in June 2016 warned that Trump's call to deport all unauthorized foreigners could reduce the US milk supply. The NMPF commissioned surveys in 2014 that found a third of US dairies hired foreign-born workers, and that half of all workers in dairies are immigrants, legal and unauthorized. Several dairy farmers said they would nonetheless vote for Trump because they like his positions on other issues and do not believe he will carry out threats to deport unauthorized foreigners.

In 2013, a bipartisan group of Senators led by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) agreed on a plan to admit up to 337,000 guest workers to fill farm jobs over three years. Today, most farm groups have given up on a new guest worker program for agriculture anytime soon and are trying to make the H-2A guest worker program more employer-friendly, including speeding-up processing times.

Critics of agriculture's quest for easier access to guest workers note that average hourly earnings of farm workers are about $12 an hour, compared to $18 an hour for construction workers; many farmers say that they are "only a construction boom away from a severe labor shortage." Higher farm wages would likely keep more current workers in agriculture longer, spur labor-saving mechanization, and increase imports of labor-intensive fruits and vegetables.

The Bipartisan Policy Center released a report in June 2016 that concluded US workers do not want low-skilled jobs in agriculture and construction, making migrants necessary to fill vacant jobs. Critics argue that there is no shortage of US workers, only a shortage of wages that could attract US workers or prompt mechanization that reduces the demand for low-skilled labor.


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