Barack Obama’s timid effort to protect millions of illegal immigrants in the United States appears to make sense. The Devil is in the details, as they say,
so a full evaluation cannot be done until the whole plan is public.
Obama has three parts to his executive order announced Thursday night. The first two are hardly controversial. He said he would reinforce the southern border of the U.S. to reduce illegal entries. He also supported a popular idea to allow foreign university graduates and those with advanced U.S. degrees to remain in the United States. The new Congress should put these principles into law in January.
His third point would give temporary immunity from deportation to illegals who come forward, register and agree to work and pay taxes. Those who have broken no laws other than those related to immigration would qualify if they have been in the United States five years.
A better plan would be to have all illegals register under penalty of deportation. The public estimates of illegal aliens in the United States are around 11 million. Private government estimates suggest there are many more. Officials at least need a good census to proceed further. The new Congress also should make sure that illegal aliens never obtain full U.S. citizenship.
The immigration situation in the United States has many parallels here. There are hundreds of thousands of illegal residents in Costa Rica. The government only seems interested in legalizing housekeepers and agricultural workers. Many expats live in the gray zone of perpetual tourism.
Obama is among the best in giving speeches. His plan, as he describes it, seems humane and possible. But the Devil is in the details.