That Big Thing Everyone Is Talking About Today

Friday, June 15th, 2012

So if I’m understanding all of this correctly, today the president said that if you were brought to this country at a young age, by no choice of your own, which is to say that if the United States has been your home for as long as you can remember . . . . we will no longer put you handcuffs, put you on a bus or plane, then dump you in a country where you might have been born, but that is otherwise completely foreign to you.

Somehow, this is controversial?

In a humane, sane world, the country’s collective reaction to today’s announcement would have been, You mean until now, we were actually doing this to people? What the hell is wrong with us?

Also, apparently if you meet all the above criteria, but happen to have reached the age of 30, you’re still out of luck.

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67 Responses to “That Big Thing Everyone Is Talking About Today”

  1. #1 |  el coronado | 

    As always, I’m amazed at the prevailing shockingly naive opinion here that the US has some sort of…duty? obligation? to let everyone who *wants* to come here in. That criteria seems to be applied to no other country, and for the countries who are most vigilant in keeping immigrants out – Japan immediately comes to mind – the rule seems to be, “Well, it’s OK for them to do that. Just not us.”

    Why is that, I wonder.

  2. #2 |  Brian V. | 


    I suspect it’s because the most of the usual posters here aren’t working-class types, at least not until their parents send ’em packing.

  3. #3 |  Radley Balko | 

    Why is that, I wonder.

    I can only speak for myself, but I don’t criticize Japan’s immigration policy on a regular basis because I don’t live in Japan, I’m not a Japanese citizen, and my taxes don’t fund the Japanese government.

  4. #4 |  Radley Balko | 

    What the President did was decide he wasn’t going to enforce a law that was lawfuly passed by Congress and signed by a President.

    Not exactly. He said he was changing how it’s enforced. The federal government has nowhere near the resources to deport every undocumented immigrant. So Obama is saying the people who meet these criteria won’t be deported. The resources will be committed elsewhere. It’s like a prosecutor prioritizing some crimes over others, because he doesn’t have the staff and funding to enforce them all.

  5. #5 |  Badtux | 

    Let us not forget that every single one of us posting here is guilty of some crime in that block-sized library full of books which is all the state, local, and federal laws on record. Selective enforcement of the law is a reality, because if it wasn’t happening, there would be no guards to guard the prisoners because they’d all be in prison too. Going after some kid who was not personally capable of breaking the law when he was illegally brought here and treating him like a criminal for the rest of his life for the simple crime of existing is wrong, period.

    As for those who claim that there are no winners in the current immigration system, sure there are — employers who want slaves who can be deported if they get uppity, rather than free men. It’s not just the farmers and contractors who agree with the current system because it gives them a supply of slave labor. It’s the whole system. Look at the H1B and green card programs for tech people for an example. They require almost slave-like obedience to your employer to keep these visas, and the H1B program furthermore guarantees *disposable* slaves, who can be traded in for new slaves once all value has been extracted out of them. It is to the credit of most tech employers that we generally treat our H1B and green card employees the same way we treat the rest of our employees, but there are certainly employers who do take advantage of the slave labor provisions of these visas, I see their employees sleeping a dozen employees to a 1 bedroom apartment and waiting en masse to take the bus to Big Fortune 500 Company every morning. People who believe that Big Government and Big Business aren’t in collusion here probably believe in the tooth fairy and those Nigerian princes who want to give you a million dollars too…

  6. #6 |  CANINE CENTRAL | Iced Borscht | 

    […] That Big Thing Everyone Is Talking About Today( […]

  7. #7 |  Leon Wolfeson | 


    At least you don’t have a political party dedicated to killing many your own citizens simply because they came into the country in the last two decades. Perspective!

    @40 – C. S. P. Schofield

    The reality is, there are several companies in the US who would like to hire me. But I’m British. There’s basically no chance they can get a work visa for me, and if they did it would be prohibitively expensive. Never mind I really /am/ a specialist in a fairly obscure area of creative media.

    So I’ll work remotely, or in the EU or Canada. It’s nuts. (I’d add that the current British system, as imposed by our current government, is pretty much identically nuts).

  8. #8 |  Jeff | 

    Libertarians think wrongly about this issue. It’s not that they’re wrong about free immigration, nor that they’re wrong about the welfare state. They’re wrong on the relation between the two.

    In a welfare state, and we’re living in one, you can’t have free immigration.

    There’s an order in which these policies must be taken down. You’ve got to end social welfare before you can have free immigration.

  9. #9 |  Radley Balko | 

    You’ve got to end social welfare before you can have free immigration.

    Undocumented immigrants can’t get welfare. And study after study after study has shown they contribute far more to the economy than they take out of it.

  10. #10 |  Woog | 

    A beneficiary of the socialist EMTALA law needs no documentation, as it’s the 1980-era mandate for emergency rooms to treat/stabilize anyone who shows up, regardless if inability to pay is known. Nothing is free – taxpayers and lawful citizenry have been paying through the nose for this, primarily through the insane increases in medical costs over the last two decades.

    As far as other socialist programs such as welfare, I have no evidence to contradict the claim that it can’t be had by “undocumented immigrants”. However, I’d be extremely surprised to find that such people cannot receive “free” schooling, for example, so I suspect the problem of the drain on the (illegal) socialist programs is more damaging than you believe.

  11. #11 |  Fay | 

    @55 Badtux: well fucking said.

  12. #12 |  Deoxy | 

    This is exactly how we should handle such people.


    There should BE NO SUCH PEOPLE to begin with. That’s the insane part.

    This action is simply addressing a minor symptom of a major illness.

    It’s like gay marriage: nobody has given a toss for at least a decade

    Which is why several states have enacted bans of various strengths, many by referendum, in the past decade. No, wait, that doesn’t make any sense…

  13. #13 |  Deoxy | 

    Undocumented immigrants can’t get welfare.

    Ok, it’s not often I do this, especially to someone who is generally so well-researched as Radley, but…


    Seriously, what you mean is that they can’t LEGALLY get the legal definition of “welfare”, but that’s so remarkably narrow as to be silly.

    As pointed out above, that they make use of EMTALA-provided free medical care (in the most expensive way possible, since that’s all EMTALA allows) is beyond debate. How is that not “welfare” in the general sense?

    And yes indeed, they do make use of food stamps (illegally). Seen it personally. Housing assistance: same thing.

    Maybe those things are more rare (wouldn’t surprise me), but a blanket statement like you made…

    So yeah, Radley, you’re usually so careful about stuff. Please go back and try that one again, seriously this time.

  14. #14 |  Rob R. | 

    Rob@34 and Sean@42, don’t forget the whole prison industry who has been making lots of money on the backs of illegal aliens who are detained while waiting for thier hearings in the ever backlogged immigration courts. It is not uncommon for people to wait a month or more for thier first appearance with an immigration judge, and many spend 6-8 months in custody before thier cases are decided. Many of the detention centers are run by government contractors, others by local governments who rely on the revenue. You’re smart to by following the money: it’s not just USCIS, it is DHS, ICE and lots of governments and contractors.

    One the one hand, there’s the immigration lawyers (like me) who see a large pool of potential clients out there who need some changes in the law to be able to stay in the US. On the other hand, there are lots more people with lots more clout with decision makers who have a vested interest in keeping the laws the way they are: they see lots of people they can detain, make money off of for while, then ship out. Their problem is that it takes more courage most of us have to leave everything you know to go a place where you don’t speak the language in order to support your family and have a better life (not to mention that it is exactly that spirit that formed our great nation in the first place.) Oh, and by the way, if you are the least bit religious, every major religion teaches that your are to be kind to the stanger, help the poor, and take care of those less fortunate than you. Right now, the law (presumably passed by the people) doesn’t do that.

    Finally, compare the rethoric from the mid 1800s in Cal, or from anywhere other period. This is the same debate, with different players, that we’ve had before.

  15. #15 |  ImmLawyer | 

    @Waste 93. A lot of people (mostly those who oppose this new policy) are saying that the President has “sidestepped the Constitution” or “usurped Congressional authority” and done this by “fiat.” That is not what has happened here. The President has not passed a law. He hasn’t even issued an Executive Order. He hasn’t given anybody “amnesty” or a “path to citizenship.” He’s simply announced a new policy to the effect that, from now on, people who meet certain defined parameters between the ages of 15 and 29 will not be prosecuted or deported simply because they entered the country illegally when they were children. He did something similar around this same time last year when he announced that the administration would prioritize deporting those violent offenders and gang members who were most likely to pose a threat to U.S. security (rather than the average undocumented landscaper who cuts your grass, pays taxes and keeps his head down). It’s a principled and conscious choice not to kick people out of the country who are only here through no fault of their own. And it’s completely within the scope of his authority as President to make those decisions on prosecutorial discretion and to announce them – just as it would be within the scope of a President Romney’s authority to revoke such a policy on Day 1 of his presidency without consulting Congress.

  16. #16 |  notanImmLawyer | 

    @ImmLawyer #65. The argument for prosecutorial discretion seems somewhat sound, but it does raise the issue of selective enforcement. Leaving that aside, my problem is with the affirmative grant of work permits. Does that violate any statutes? I was under the impression that it wasn’t a choice of the executive to grant work permits, but a statutory requirement that such permits could only be given to lawful residents of the United States. If there is such a statute, then isn’t the executive branch handing these out to illegal aliens itself illegal? I think that the result here is just, but people seem too willing to shrug off the separation of powers issue here because they like the just result. I was a permanent resident for years before becoming a citizen and I lived in fear of getting caught up in bs law enforcement issues – open containers in college, walking while black in NYC, etc. So I am by no means an anti-immigrant zealot. I just think that there’s a big difference in not deporting people and giving them work permits.

  17. #17 |  Dreams, actions, and DREAM actions | 

    […] Dreams, actions, and DREAM actionsJune 22, 2012 By Fred Clark Leave a CommentRadley Balko: “That Big Thing Everyone Is Talking About Today“The president said that if you were brought to this country at a young age, by no choice of […]