Congressional negligence exacerbated turmoil over U.S. immigration policy

The Yomiuri ShimbunMost of the young immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children have settled in local communities and are underpinning the economy as the labor force. The responsibility of Congress is grave, as it has been negligent in legislating measures to permit them to live and work legally in the country.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced his policy to rescind a relief program for these young immigrants, who are called “Dreamers.” Asserting that it was wrong for the previous administration of President Barack Obama to use executive authority to introduce the program to provide work permits and other protective measures, Trump urged Congress to work out legislation that will replace it within six months.

During the presidential campaign last year, Trump advocated reviewing the program. The latest announcement also seems to be aimed at touting that Trump is fulfilling his campaign promise to supporters who think that immigrants steal jobs from American citizens and have caused public safety to deteriorate.

The so-called Dreamers are people who were brought into the country under the age of 16 by their parents and were not older than 30 when the program was introduced five years ago. If they meet such conditions as being in school or having graduated from high school, they are granted deferral of deportation and can renew every two years their permit to stay and work in the country.

There are as many as 800,000 Dreamers, mainly of Mexican and other Latin American extraction. They have scant ties with their mother countries. If a legislation that can replace the present program is not enacted within six months, these young immigrants may be deported, starting from those whose permitted period of stay have ended.

Economic impact likely

Protest movements by young people and others have spread all over the country. In Washington State and other states, movements have emerged to bring a lawsuit calling for the program to be kept in place. This latest development is likely to further deepen the rupture in society.

If Dreamers subject to deportation leave the country, it will be difficult to make up for the loss of manpower in a short period of time. The country’s gross domestic product is also estimated to fall, a decline that would arise from reduced consumption and tax revenue. It is probably inevitable that the industrial sector of the country will be adversely affected.

It is understandable that top executives of IT companies, including Apple, Google and Microsoft, which employ Dreamers, have called for the program to be made permanent and legislated, saying that they have contributed to local communities and economies.

It is problematic that although the necessity of drastically reforming the country’s immigration system has long been pointed out, so as to adapt to these realities, Congress has failed to function properly, thus postponing legislation.

The previous Obama administration and the Democratic Party have promoted a bill to allow these young people to obtain citizenship, if only under certain conditions. Yet the bill has been killed due to opposition from the Republican Party. Within the Republican Party, there continues a division between hard-liners calling for stringent immigration policy and moderates positive about granting these young people citizenship.

Despite his high-handed method, Trump has a point in his call, as made in his statement, for “responsible immigration reform” and saying, “It is now time for Congress to act!” Both Republicans and Democrats have to distance themselves from political battles and work out a bill that can win wide public support.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 12, 2017)Speech


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