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October 2016, Volume 22, Number 4

DAPA, Politics

The US Supreme Court in October 2016 refused to reconsider its 4-4 decision that effectively upheld lower court decisions that found the Obama administration did not follow proper administrative procedures to implement the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs to give some unauthorized foreigners temporary work and residence permits. The refusal means that DAPA and expanded DACA will not be implemented.

Migrant advocates hoped that the Supreme Court would rehear the case. They argued that the basis of state opposition to DAPA, that Texas would incur costs to issue driver's licenses to DAPA and DACA recipients, could be remedied by Texas charging more for licenses. Furthermore, they said that allowing states to block changes in federal immigration policy each time a change imposed costs on states could spawn more litigation.

By the summer of 2016, the four-year old DACA program had granted two-year temporary legal status to 728,825 unauthorized foreigners. Initial estimates were that up to 1.3 million unauthorized foreigners were eligible, suggesting that 63 percent of those eligible had received DACA status; 93 percent of those who applied for renewal of DACA status were approved. DACA recipients may obtain social security numbers and driver's licenses in all 50 states.

About 400,000 unauthorized foreigners brought to the US as youth do not meet the education requirement of having a high school diploma to apply for DACA.

Some DACA recipients are becoming immigrants. Once in DACA status, recipients can request permission to leave the US for humanitarian, educational, or employment purposes and return lawfully, after which time they can be sponsored for immigrant visas by close relatives. USCIS reported that, as of July 2016, over 5,000 DACA recipients sought immigrant visas in this way, and that 3,000 were approved.

Unauthorized foreigners in the US are normally barred for three or 10 years from obtaining immigrant visas, depending on how long they have been unauthorized in the US. If the foreigner can show "extreme hardship" to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parents, the three- or 10-year bar can be waived.

Politics. The Republican Party nominated Donald Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence as candidates for president and vice-president, while the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.

Immigration provides one of the sharpest divides between the parties. Trump calls for a wall on the Mexico-US border and the removal of "illegal aliens" from the US, while Clinton promises comprehensive immigration reform with a path to US citizenship for unauthorized foreigners in the US.

The Republican platform calls for less legal immigration, saying "immigration policy must serve the national interest of the United States, and the interests of American workers must be protected over the claims of foreign nationals seeking the same jobs." The Republican platform also opposes "any form of amnesty for those who, by breaking the law, have disadvantaged those who have obeyed it." Trump said he would ensure that in immigration matters, "The American people will come first once again."

Clinton said that if Congress refuses to act, "DAPA is squarely within the President's authority;" she promised to expand DAPA to include the unauthorized parents of DACA recipients. Clinton also promised to "stop the raids and roundups" aimed at detecting and removing unauthorized foreign criminals but that also snare "innocent" unauthorized foreigners. The Democratic platform "supports legal immigration, within reasonable limits, that meets the needs of families, communities and the economy."

Trump in August 2016 said he would suspend immigration from "the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world" and require those seeking to immigrate to the US from such regions to undergo "extreme vetting" to ensure they are not threats to the US. Trump charged that Hillary Clinton wants to be "America's Angela Merkel," a reference to the million migrants who arrived in Germany in 2015. Trump said that recent terrorists attacks in the US were carried out by "by immigrants, or the children of immigrants."

Trump in September 2016 promised to create 25 million jobs in a decade, topping the 24 million created between 1991 and 2001. During the decade between 2000 and 2010, employment fell by two million. Since the 2008-09 recession, US economic growth averaged two percent a year; Trump promised to increase growth to 3.5 percent a year by raising the labor force participation rate from the current 63 percent to 67 percent.

Analysts say that Trump has benefited from primary voters who felt that other Republican leaders did not share their concerns about the impact of immigrants on US-born workers. Meanwhile, many Democrats have come to believe that any enforcement activities against unauthorized immigrants are wrong.

Outlook. Republican Donald Trump is leading among white working class voters whose wages have stagnated and among older voters, while Democrat Hillary Clinton leads among minorities, women and young people.

Clinton expects to win traditional Democratic states such as California and New York. She appeals to suburban residents in industrial toss up states with plans for additional infrastructure spending and an immigration reform bill similar to that enacted by the Senate in 2013.

Industrial states such as Ohio that were once reliably Democratic have become toss-ups as union membership declines and evangelical churches expand. Trump's views on trade, immigrants and Muslims appeal to many voters whose incomes are below the US median of $55,000, as does his "Make America great again" slogan.

In September 2016, Trump softened his stand on unauthorized foreigners, saying that some could stay if they paid back taxes. After a short visit to Mexico, he outlined a 10-point immigration plan on August 31, 2016 that began with a wall on the Mexican border and ended with ambiguity about what would happen to unauthorized foreigners in the US. He said "No citizenship. They'll pay back taxes?There's no amnesty, but we will work with them."

There may be two million more Hispanic voters in 2016 than in 2012, and they may play a major role in some battleground states. Over 27 million Hispanics are eligible to vote in 2016, up from 23 million in 2012, when less than half of the eligible Hispanic voters, about 11 million, cast votes. Hispanics are 20 percent or more of eligible voters in Arizona, Florida and Nevada, and 15 percent in Colorado.

Congress. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Gang of Eight whose comprehensive immigration reform bill was approved by the Senate in 2013, said that he hoped for a bipartisan compromise on immigration reform in 2017. He also called on the newly elected President to raise refugee admissions and accept at least 100,000 Syrians a year.

Hazelton, Pennsylvania, a city of 25,000 in northeastern part of the state, is represented in Congress by Lou Barletta, who as mayor pushed for one of the first city ordinances penalizing employers and landlords for dealing with illegal immigrants. The Hispanic population is increasing in Luzerne county, prompting a backlash from local residents, many of whom are descended from Eastern Europeans.

Many of the Hispanics in Hazelton are from San José de Ocoa in the Dominican Republic, and many work in factories and warehouses where hourly wages are much lower than in the coal mines that have largely closed.