U.S. Immigration Policies Meet Criticism

In the United States, state-level immigration reform is seeing progress.  Undocumented immigrants in New York state will now be able to apply for teacher certification and professional licenses from the state education department, the state Board of Regents voted on Wednesday.  Only certain individuals who came to the U.S. as children are qualified.  Because these individuals derive their immigration status from their parents, most of them do not have any way to obtain legal residency, even though they have lived in the U.S. since childhood, attended U.S. schools alongside American-born citizens, and even served in the military.  Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, these people are allowed to work but cannot obtain professional certification and licenses in teaching, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering, and other professions.

However, political tensions regarding immigration in the U.S. continue to grow, particularly over President Barack Obama’s enforcement of immigration laws.  Thomas Homan, head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s removal operations, stated that out of the over 170,000 immigrants who arrived as children, only 7,643 were sent home, or about 4 percent.  This revelation came during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on how the government plans to deal with a possible new surge in migrants.

Those against immigration to the U.S. are being combatted by economic figures.  According to a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants pay at least $11.6 billion per year in taxes and thus greatly contribute to our economy through labor and tax dollars.  If Obama’s executive actions from 2012 and 2014 (which protect some undocumented immigrants from deportation) are upheld by the Supreme Court, tax revenues would increase by about $805 million.  Currently, California, Texas, New York, and Florida benefit the most from increased tax revenue given that they have the largest immigrant populations.

If immigration reform were to provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., approximately $2.1 billion would be collected in tax revenues.  However, the political climate surrounding immigration would have to change drastically for such reform to be passed.

Such reform is unlikely if the next administration hails from the Republican Party.  The Republican presidential debate last Thursday breached the issue of immigration, and as in previous debates the Republican forerunners were staunchly anti-immigration, with frontrunner Donald Trump exclaiming that his plans for a wall along the Mexican border “just got ten feet taller.”

Trump has received criticism worldwide. Last week, Frauke Petry, a leader of the far-right movement in Germany who once suggested that police use guns against migrants who enter Germany illegally, questioned the usefulness of his immigration plans.

Both Trump and Petry have seen a rise in their poll numbers even with their negative depiction in the mainstream media. They both disagree with Angela Merkel’s “open door policy” when it comes to refugees, though Frauke Petry believes that simple solutions like building a wall would not be sustainable in the long term.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

Hannah Matangos

Hannah Matangos was a research intern at AICGS for the spring semester of 2016.