Op-Ed

Obama plan undermines immigration

Mark H. Metcalf
Mark H. Metcalf

Overreach has defined President Barack Obama. Now determined to accomplish through regulation with a Republican Congress what he failed to do through legislation with a Democratic one, Obama may soon attempt another overhaul of America’s immigration system.

Like the amnesty he declared in 2014 that was blocked by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this month, this one too creates more problems than it solves and, like last year’s effort, legal authority for this rule-making is absent. So is commonsense.

A memorandum leaked last week from the Department of Homeland Security reveals administration officials proposing to scrap employer-based visa programs crafted under President Ronald Reagan in 1986 in favor of new regulations — and a complementary executive order — that gut these protocols.

Twelve million illegal aliens now would feel its impact as would the 66 million Americans and legal immigrants still outside the work-force since Obama took office.

The proposals make work visas available to anyone — even those without work. More importantly, they benefit the many who entered the U.S. illegally as well as those who overstayed their visitor visas.

Because federal law rarely allows those who arrived or remained without legal status to gain citizenship, this latest scheme leaves these migrants in a limbo no regulation can fix.

There are more than 20 types of visas for non-immigrant workers. Among these are visas for professional athletes, entertainers, skilled performers and investors. The most common is the “H” visa. To qualify, an applicant must prove a specific employer will hire him for a specific job.

Since 2010, nearly 1.8 million such visas have been issued. But adapted to Obama’s purposes, the focus of these visas will change and their numbers will dramatically increase.

Because in reality, the administration’s proposal is not about legal employment. It’s about illegal presence.

What the proposed visas accomplish is permission to remain in the United States — in this case up to 7 million people could move to legal status and stay.

Under current rules, once employment is lost the foreign worker must either find a new job or return to his home country.

Don’t look for such requirements in this newest plan. Look for unlimited renewals and extensions of these visas regardless of employment.

These are incentives that would displace the most vulnerable American workers, driving down wages, inhibiting payroll taxes and encouraging more of the same dynamics that got us where we are today.

Such policymaking aggravates an already foundering system. A recent study by Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies puts it in perspective.

On Obama’s watch, some 2.5 million people have entered or stayed in the U.S. illegally. returning this population to the same levels seen under President George W. Bush.

The high price of porous borders and timid enforcement, matched by incentives called amnesties, succeed only in tarnishing our once-elevated commitment to the foreign-born and turn us away from the solutions of immigration done right: attracting the talented, redeeming the persecuted and removing the offender.

This administration’s immigration policies have frequently invited dismay from its supporters, distrust from Congress, contempt from federal courts, and uncertainty, if not outright rejection, from the public.

The proposed regulatory end-run only assures a further hardening of positions and more of the polarization that Obama pledged to transform.

Mark H. Metcalf, Garrard County attorney, served in the administration of President George W. Bush, including as a judge on the Miami Immigration Court.

At issue: Nov. 9 Associated Press story, “Appeals court rules against Obama immigration plan”

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