The Obama administration has announced the halting of the deportations of young undocumented immigrants and allowing some to be granted work permits. While this is far from a complete amnesty, it is a step in the right direction toward fixing a dysfunctional and broken immigration system.
In order to stay competitive in an increasing global marketplace, American companies need millions of highly trained and educated employees, especially in technology and science-related fields. Many foreign-born children who were brought to the United States by their parents have limited access to a college education once they graduate high school.
They are not eligible for federal financial aid and are often charged out-of-state tuition. Even if they manage to graduate from college, they remain undocumented and cannot get legal work. Many of the 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school annually are bright and would make great employees. The president is right in allowing those who have led law-abiding lives to gain work permits. We need them to grow our economy.
My hope is that this step leads to the passage of the Dream Act, which would then allow undocumented students who complete college or military service to start on a path to citizenship. If the Dream Act passes, then it is time for Congress to negotiate a full-scale amnesty for the remaining 9 million to 10 million undocumented people in this country.
We cannot deport them all, since doing so would wreak havoc in certain sectors of our economy. Witness Alabama: Its severe immigration policies have decimated its agricultural industry with the flight of immigrant labor and few of the local citizenry willing to harvest crops.
As president of a nonprofit that assists migrant and seasonal farmworkers across the country, I have witnessed the cruel, inhumane and exploitative nature of our country’s current immigration policies.
Was Obama’s immigration announcement in part an election-year ploy to garner more of the Latino vote? Of course.
Was it the right decision to help fill the need for more highly qualified and educated employees to help our economy? I believe so.
Editor’s note: The writer grew up in Douglaston.
Harvest of Hope Foundation