11 key facts about Obama’s immigration initiative


President Obama is announcing policy changes that give 4.3 million unauthorized immigrants — mostly parents of US citizens plus some immigrants who arrived as teenagers — protection from deportation. That adds to the 1.5 million already protected under the DACA initiative. That leaves approximately 5-6 million other unauthorized immigrants still eligible for deportation. These deportation protections are not permanent leal status, and do not create a path to citizenship. This initiative is much larger and more politically contentious than the closest precedent, George H.W. Bush’s Family Fairness initiative. Under Obama, approximately 400,000 people are deported per year, which is a higher pace than under any previous administration. The wheels will also start turning on an increase in the number of visas for recent graduates of American universities (called Optional Practical Training), and for foreign entrepreneurs but the rulemaking process will take time and it is not yet clear how large these expansions for skilled workers will be. Optional Practical Training’s critics note that the program operates with little in the way of regulation of clear guidelines, which is perhaps what makes it an appealing avenue for a president looking to increased skilled migration without getting Congress to pass a law. Immunizing over 4 million immigrants from deportation if they register and begin paying taxes should lead to about $2.87 billion in new payroll tax revenue. Studies indicate that the increase in visas for skilled workers should increase wages for native-born Americans, both those with and without college degrees. In general, immigration raises average wages for American citizens but some (though not all) researchers find poorly educated Americans, especially high school dropouts, suffer lower wages due to immigration.

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