The one-page summary of the White House deal on DACA and border security has drawn criticism from both left and right since it was released on Thursday. While the plan will be released in its entirety on Monday, the summary offers a 10-year-long path toward legal residence for 1.8 million illegal aliens. While Democrats had been focusing on the approximately 700,000 recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals that preserved them from deportation, the White House deal dramatically increases the number of those would be eligible to achieve legal status and, ultimately, citizenship.
A White House spokesman described the plan as “extremely generous” with regard to DACA recipients. However, there are components that are “non-negotiable,” according to the New York Times. The plan would rewrite much of the current system by limiting avenues for legal immigration, improve deportation procedures, and fund border security with tens of billions of dollars.
Despite the White House offer to increase the number of illegal aliens eligible for legal residence and eventual citizenship, Democrats and allied advocacy groups have rejected the plan.
The four points that trouble immigration advocates are as follow:
With few exceptions, there are two ways to immigrate to the United States: as the family member of an American citizen or legal permanent resident, or as a highly qualified employee of a business in the U.S. In the White House plan, legal permanent residents and citizens would only be allowed to sponsor their spouses or children under the age of 18. While the principle of family reunification has long been a feature of American immigration policy, critics assert that the White House plan would cut the number of sponsored family members by half.
Under current rules, citizens may sponsor a spouse, unmarried minor children, adult children, parents, and siblings. Legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses, minor children, and adult children. While the federal government limits the numbers of family visas granted each year at about 250,000, there are actually about 500,000 immigrant visas granted on the basis of family ties alone. The laws governing the current system have been in place for the last half century to the Hart-Celler Act of 1965, which created this immigration system to give preference to close family relationships.
Before the immigration reform of 1965, the majority of immigrants came from Canada and Europe. By privileging familial relationships, the 1965 overhaul replaced national and racial quotas, enabling new levels of immigration from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Within 15 years, 80 percent of people coming here were from non-Western regions.
According to an article in The Nation, the White House plan is “less about addressing the actual problems that exist within the immigration system than it is toward engineering a less-brown demographic future.” The article noted that every month approximately “66,000 Latinos in the United States turn 18, and Asians are the fastest growing segment of the US population.”
The visa lottery
Currently, every country in the world is subject to the same per-country cap as every other country. Because Congress decided that the system favored some countries over others, the visa lottery (or diversity visa) system was introduced in the 1970s. Every year, 50,000 visas are issued by sheer chance for residents of countries that do not send the most immigrants to the United States. In 2017, about 20 million people entered the lottery. African immigrants, because of how the immigration system is structured, have become the principal beneficiaries of the visa lottery system.
The White House plan would eliminate the visa lottery, while the 50,000 visas would be used to bring down current backlog among other immigrant applicants. According to the White House, the visa lottery “does not serve the national interest.”
The White House is calling for $25 billion for increased border security, including a border wall. This is more than the $18 billion the White House requested at the beginning of the year. It includes funding for additional Border Patrol personnel, immigration judges and prosecutors, as well as stepping up security at ports and along the northern border region.
Additionally, the White House is seeking to deter visa overstays “expedited removal.” The plan would address the fact that the great majority of illegal aliens came into the country through legal channels, rather than crossing illegally into the country. According to a 2017 report, two-thirds of the people who became illegal aliens in 2014 entered by legal means. In 2016, 54 million visitors entered the U.S. through air and sea port, while nearly 630,000 of them did not go home, according to a report by the Department of Homeland Security.
Immigration advocates fear that illegal aliens could lose the right to a deportation hearing before a judge. Under the White House plan, once arrested, visa overstayers would be immediately processed for deportation, they claim.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.