The constitutionality of President Obama’s recent amnesty order is debatable, to say the least, Obama himself having admitted that he simply “changed the law”. If that’s what he thinks he did, the law professor should know that his action was out-of-bounds from a constitutional perspective. The executive branch cannot make or change laws!
In “Legal but Still Poor: The Economic Consequences of Amnesty“, Joel Kotkin puts aside the constitutional question to focus on difficulties that are likely to be aggravated by amnesty. Kotkin emphasizes the economic distress that now hampers the working class. Illegals already compete for certain jobs, of course, a point Kotkin doesn’t mention. Nevertheless, the amnesty order will create new competition among workers for some positions, many of whom already face difficult conditions:
“… the country suffers from rates of labor participation at a 36 year low. Many jobs that were once full-time are, in part due to the Affordable Care Act, now part-time, and thus unable to support families. Finally there are increasingly few well-paying positions—including in industry—that don’t require some sort of post-college accreditation.”
Furthermore, the order might create incentives for new illegal immigration, leading to further labor market stress. Politically, the order is seen as an act of betrayal by legal immigrants who have gone to considerable effort and expense to obtain their status. It is also likely to be viewed as betrayal by some minority workers, who tend to be more heavily represented in parts of the labor market most vulnerable to the new competition:
“African-American unemployment is now twice that of whites. The black middle class, understandably proud of Obama’s elevation, has been losing the economic gains made over the past thirty years. … Latino-Americans have made huge strides in previous decades, but now are also falling behind, with a gradual loss of income relative to whites. Poverty among Latino children in America has risen from 27.5 percent in 2007 to 33.7 percent in 2012, an increase of 1.7 million minors.”
Kotkin mentions several other administration policies that are likely to diminish prospects for new and existing workers.
“Ironically, the places where the cry for amnesty has been the loudest—New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago—also tend to be those places that have created the least opportunity for the urban poor. … Whatever their noble intentions, these cities generally suffer the largest degree of income inequality, notes a recent Brookings study.”
The amnesty order will be expensive for taxpayers. Many newly legal immigrants will qualify for various forms of public assistance and benefits. The negative fiscal effects will be compounded if, as expected, those immigrants and the workers with whom they compete have greater difficulty finding jobs:
“Herein lies the great dilemma then for the advocates of amnesty. In much of the country, and particularly the blue regions, they will find very few decent jobs but often a host of programs designed to ease their poverty. The temptation to increase the rolls of the dependent—and perhaps boost Democratic turnouts—may prove irresistible for the local political class.”
Obama’s amnesty order attempts to deal head-on with the impossibility of deporting a large number of illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, many others will be made worse-off by the order: legal immigrants, relatively low-skilled workers and taxpayers are all likely to suffer negative consequences. And the order fails to deal adequately with the real economic need for more highly-skilled immigrants; it might well damage the prospects of achieving any near-term reform in this area. Instead of working with Congress to achieve more comprehensive reform, the President’s hasty action fuels suspicion that the real reason for his amnesty order is simply to build a larger constituency for a statist agenda.