On Nov. 1, newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan ruled out overhauling U.S. immigration policies while President Obama is still in office. Ryan claimed that the president cannot be trusted on this issue, as he has bypassed Congress with an executive order shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. This executive order includes the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) programs. These programs would allow eligible undocumented immigrants to receive permits to temporarily stay in the U.S.
Another program effective in the summer of 2015 – called the Priority Enforcement Program, or PEP — prioritizes some groups of undocumented immigrants for deportation. Convicted felons would be deported as a first priority, followed by those with serious misdemeanors and/or unlawful entry or re-entry. Finally, those with a removal order issued after Jan. 1, 2014 would make up the third, or lowest, priority. This revises Obama’s immigration policy proposed in November 2014.
Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., about 2 million are now categorized into one of these priority groups. The other 9.6 million immigrants are not currently seen as targets for immigration enforcement, which may improve their relationships with local law enforcement officers who are now less inclined to target them for deportation.
Many Sanctuary Cities rely on this lack of deportation to enable cooperation between undocumented immigrants and local law enforcement.
Lacking comprehensive immigration reform, many U.S. states are starting to implement their own state-based reforms – and they’re beginning to see positive results, according to Latin Post . States are experimenting with ways to bring these immigrants into the economy, aiming to benefit not only the immigrants themselves but also the state economies.
In terms of state-level reform, 12 states have allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, trying to improve road safety while generating revenue from permit fees. New Jersey is discussing such a program, and projects netting between $5.2 million and $9.5 million in the first three years.
These state reforms demonstrate that making strides to incorporate undocumented immigrants can benefit the economy as a whole. Whether that means expanding driver’s licenses or ensuring immigrants are paid the minimum wage, states are seeing success with these programs. Politicians like Paul Ryan must take these successes into account when discussing the need for comprehensive immigration reform, as doing so can benefit local, state and national economies — and constituents. Pandering to the anti-immigrant restrictionists is not a policy solution. It is cowardice.