NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Problems with Fixing Immigration via Executive Order

August 26, 2014

President Obama is expected to issue an executive order to take action on immigration and the border crisis, potentially giving the millions of illegal aliens currently in the United States a path to become an American citizen.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, director of Economics 21, says that such action by the President would be a mistake. Any order granting legal status to undocumented workers would immediately be challenged in court. Those benefiting from the order would be left in an uncertain position. Moreover, executive orders are different from legislation: they can be changed as soon as a new president enters office. Even if an executive order is upheld by a court, a new president could adopt an entirely new position, taking away the protection that President Obama might bestow upon illegals.

Immigration reform should go through the legislative process. Furchtgott-Roth adds that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle would like to increase the number of work visas available to foreign workers, and she encourages the President to sign any bill doing so. The United States is in dire need of economic growth, and bringing in workers from abroad would encourage such growth.

Moreover, she notes the benefits that legal immigrants have added to the U.S. economy:

  • American businesses founded by immigrants produced $63 billion in sales in 2012, creating jobs for 560,000 workers.
  • Immigrants are more likely to start new businesses than are native Americans. In fact, 44 percent of Silicon Valley companies were founded by at least one immigrant.
  • Increasing the number of immigrant scientists and engineers by just 1 percentage point increases the number of patents per capita in the United States by 18 percent.

Rather than deal with immigration policy via executive order, the United States should do so through the legislative branch.

Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth, "3 Reasons an Obama Executive Order on Immigration Would Backfire," Economics 21, August 22, 2014.

 

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