The Economics and Business Club at Queens College hosted an event to discuss President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration on April 29.
Professors Francesc Ortega and John Devereux, from the economics department, met at Powdermaker Hall 333 and led a panel discussion about the potential outcomes of the new initiatives on immigration
Obama’s executive actions, announced on Aug. 14, 2014, aimed at establishing restrictions on illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border. These restrictions include: the deportation of felons instead of families, imposing requirements for undocumented immigrants to pass criminal background checks and to subsequently pay taxes and stay in the U.S. without the fear of deportation.
Ortega elaborated on what he considered to be the most important points of Obama’s executive action towards immigration.
His points included extensions on the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program, which helps protect families with undocumented members, awards two-year work permits, which would open possibilities for higher earnings as well as giving undocumented workers more bargaining power.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said immigrants who entered the U.S. as children and meet specific guidelines may apply for consideration for DACA status for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization permits.
“DACA allows for individuals that arrived in the country as children before a certain date to obtain a two-year work permit and an extension from deportation,” Ortega said. “For that period you could work legally and you won’t be deported. It does not facilitate a path to citizenship, and at the end of that period you could apply again.”
In addition, Ortega highlighted new legislation implemented by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio designed to stall deportations, therefore reducing cooperation with immigration and customs enforcement detainers, unless a warrant is issued by a federal judge.
“These legislations go in the spirit of the executive order so they avoid deporting people who are not a threat, and focus resources on those who really are a threat,” Ortega said.
Aside from positive scenarios such as a 10 to 20 percent raise in wages, workers with families that qualify for permits may experience less stress and fear in their daily lives. Their young children may also benefit from more relaxed parents who can now help them do better in school, further improving the welfare of families.
Equally important, Devereux believes that the executive actions towards immigration are positive, due to the fact that they address the issues concerning the welfare of the immigrants that are already established in this country; the hardworking people who made the choice to come to the U.S. and, unless these policies are addressed with critical commitment, there’s going to be a lot more undocumented immigration, therefore prevent the process to reach positive the developments.
In the context of a defective immigration system, unless a strong belief to reform the whole system is stablished, Devereux is certain that reforms may not be the best path to follow if satisfactory results are expected.
“My complaints are not about the amnesty. Who could be against it? They are about the fact that they are taking place inside a fundamentally flawed system,” Devereux said.
Moreover, Devereux continued in his analysis of the executive actions by briefly mentioning economist George Borjas, who conjured interesting calculations about the effects of increased immigration, mainly undocumented, for the income of African Americans. Such calculations estimate that African Americans income could be affected roughly by 8 to 9 percent.
In Devereux’s view, there are questions on whether the system can be reformed.
“It is more important to have a system that works. The United States has a system that doesn’t work,” Devereux said.