Editor’s note: Last week, President Obama announced that he would limit deportation proceedings against certain young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. prior to turning 16 and have no criminal background.
The following is a PorkNetwork exclusive Q&A with Craig Regelbrugge, co-chair, Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, about the announcement.
Craig Regelbrugge Q: Is President Obama’s immigration announcement good policy?
A: Political motivations aside, it’s hard for anyone other than the most hard-line anti-immigrant people in our society not to struggle with what to do about young undocumented immigrants who have their whole life potential ahead of them…or not. Many of them have little or no recollection of their country of birth.
The original DREAM Act, which sought to address the issue, was a bipartisan legislative proposal with strong backing of Utah’s senior Senator Orrin Hatch among the Republican champions. But that initiative was stalled at the end of 2008.
Q: Will the announcement lead to permanent U.S. immigration reform?
A: What the President has done is more of a stopgap measure than a real solution. A real solution will take an act of Congress. Sen. Marco Rubio’s, R. Fla., recent efforts being the exception, there’s little evidence of real bipartisan commitment in Congress to resolve the fate of these young people, or agricultural workers whose labor sustains whole industries.
Q: How many agriculture workers will the announcement affect?
A: I have not yet seen any good estimate of how many undocumented agricultural workers may fall into the covered class under this recent action. Certainly, there will be some. For anyone who qualifies, and is already in deportation proceedings, it’s a no-brainer to pursue the possibility of “deferred departure,” the chance to remain here two years with authorization to work.
The trickier question is, should someone out of status come forward and admit their legal status? There will be risks. Often, such policies are unevenly implemented. Will the courts intervene? Will a change in administration result in a change in policy?
If I were a currently-employed farm worker with false papers who might qualify, I think I’d be cautious for now.
Q: Will the announcement increase illegal immigration?
A: It may be a factor, but a small one. Other factors which may limit illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America include the anemic U.S. economy, the deteriorating security situation in Mexican border regions, and enhanced enforcement.