Bryan Caplan  

Is Obama's Semi-Amnesty for Real?

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Friday Night Video: Liberty as... Executive Nullification...
I don't just think that immigration restrictions are bad policy; I think they're a grotesque crime against humanity - with all that implies.  Given this starting point, Obama's semi-amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants sounds like the best U.S. political news of the 21st-century.  I can't remember the last time any American policy change actually made me happy or even hopeful.  I'd like to believe this is for real. 

Given our political climate, however, it's hard to tell.  Obama wants to claim he's helping lots of innocent kids.  His critics want to claim that he's opening the floodgates to illegal immigration.  Who's around to say, "Obama pretends like he's helping lots of immigrants, but it's mostly symbolic," if that were in fact the case?

My question: Official reports say that an "estimated 800,000" will enjoy a reprieve.  Is there any reason to doubt that figure?

Update: Cato's Alex Nowrasteh:
If the above plan is implemented fully, between 800,000 and 2.1 million unauthorized immigrants could be legalized for up to two years.
But:
[B]efore we get too thrilled about the prospects of this sorely needed temporary liberalization, we should remember that hardly anything changed the last time the Obama administration used its prosecutorial discretion to review deportation cases.  His administration promised to wade through backlogged cases and close those where the unauthorized immigrants had strong American family ties and no criminal records.  Since that policy went into effect in November 2011, DHS officials have reviewed more than 411,000 cases and less than 2 percent of them were closed.


COMMENTS (9 to date)
Peter H writes:

There are 2 good reasons to think it'll be a bigger deal than the last year's program.

1.) The program is opt-in on the part of the immigrant. The prior program required that you have come to the attention of DHS before anything happened. Most people who have been living hear long enough to be mini-DREAM eligible are good enough at being here not to pop up on DHS radar.

2.) The program gives a reason to opt-in: a work visa (and by extension, a legitimate SSN). Under the old program, if you walked into ICE offices and asked to participate, you risked possible deportation if not qualified in exchange for having the same status you had before, not here legally, not allowed to work, not being deported. This way, you move into a status where you're not subject to deportation and can work in the non-grey economy.

This is mostly coming from a long string of high quality tweets I read this morning here: http://twitter.com/#!/DLind

RPLong writes:

To Nowrasteh's point, I think Obama can promise anything he wants to - everybody knows it's the bureaucracy that determines what will or will not be so. Anyone who has any experience working with those folks knows how scary that is.

libfree writes:

I don't know much about his enforcement of immigration, but his justice department is still going after state legal marrijuana operations that he promised not to go after.

joshua writes:

If it will have a positive effect, why did he wait til an election year when it's possible that Romney would reverse it in seven months?

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

Even one who thinks America's immigration laws are bad should dislike to have them obviated by lawless executive fiat. Even a libertarian should agree that government officials ought to carry out their duties as prescribed by law--or if they are unable to do so conscientiously, they should protest and resign rather than betray their offices.

You probably agree with me that women have the right to abortion. Yet there are millions of people who feel about abortion the way you feel about immigration restrictions-- that abortion is a crime against humanity--genocide--and to facilitate it, as by enforcing the Freedom of Access to [abortion] Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, is to be an accessory to murder.

Suppose Obama, or another President, announced that he would exercise a "discretion" (which doesn't actually exist in the law, but which the President claims is an inherent power of his office) to not enforce the FACE Act, nor any other law--even ordinary criminal statutes--protecting abortion patients and providers against violence and intimidation by anti-abortion activists. The President might say that since he and many other citizens think abortion is evil, he simply will not enforce any law permitting or encouraging it, even laws properly enacted with majority support that do not violate any clause of the Constitution.

Would you be equally pleased?

Leaving aside the wisdom of restrictive immigration laws, I don't want a President who chooses which laws to enforce on a whim. I don't think you should either.

Zippy writes:

Your argument, as I understand it, for the injustice of immigration laws is that the United States is a much better place. Immigrants seek to move to the United States to better their condition. By preventing them, we make them worse off.

But there is nothing magic about the territory of the United States that makes people more productive or capable of maintaining a First World civilization. Rather, the United States is wealthier because of its people and associated culture.

If a bunch of people from the Third World come to the United States and swamp the natives, they could end up destroying the very conditions that make Americans better off. Note that this is true regardless of whether the differences are cultural, genetic, or some combination thereof.

There are hundreds of millions of Chinese people better off than they would have been decades ago -- because China made itself more prosperous. They didn't do it by moving to the United States; they did it by fixing their own country.

If people from Mexico or Sub-Saharan Africa are capable of maintaining a prosperous First-World civilization, then we should encourage them to fix their own countries. If they're not, we should bar them as a matter of self-defense.

John Fast writes:

Ghost of Christmas Past wrote:

Suppose Obama, or another President, announced that he would exercise a "discretion" (which doesn't actually exist in the law, but which the President claims is an inherent power of his office) to not enforce the FACE Act, nor any other law--even ordinary criminal statutes--protecting abortion patients and providers against violence and intimidation by anti-abortion activists.
Would you be equally pleased?
As someone who favors open borders and believes that abortion is murder, I would indeed be equally pleased.

Reality writes:

@ Zippy

Caplan doesn't care about self defense. He's already quite well defended. He lives in a safe little government-backed bubble. Where he's paid a ridiculous salary because of his government-sponsored cartel... to complain about how bad government is.

You're a joke Caplan, a JOKE.

You're going to delete this comment anyway.

PeeTeeVee writes:

Zippy:

Are you for real? America is all wonderful solely because its people were so awesome and people everywhere else are bungling fools? Ouch!

Anyway, for contrasting opinion, read Chomsky's take on American resourcefulness/imperialism.

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