As the Associated Press reports:
“The Obama administration’s new plan to grant temporary work permits to many young, illegal immigrants who otherwise could be deported may cost more than $585 million and require hiring hundreds of new federal employees to process more than 1 million anticipated requests, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.
“The Homeland Security Department plans, marked ‘not for distribution,’ describe steps that immigrants will need to take — including a $465 paperwork fee designed to offset the program’s cost — and how the government will manage it. Illegal immigrants can request permission to stay in the country under the plan by filing a document, ‘Request for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,’ and simultaneously apply for a work permit starting Aug. 15.”
The AP goes on to say that the process could take up to 7 months from the application date to the granting of a work permit, though DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano told Congress last week that immigrants will generally be protected from deportation while their applications are pending.
She also said that the department would grant waivers to some immigrants who can’t pay the $465 paperwork fee. Republicans immediately cried bloody murder.
“By lowering the fee or waiving it altogether for illegal immigrants, those who play by the rules will face delays and large backlogs as attention is diverted to illegal immigrants,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas. “American taxpayers should not be forced to bail out illegal immigrants and President Obama’s fiscally irresponsible policies.”
The program is estimated to cost the government between $467 million and $585 million in the first two years, which would be offset by revenue from fees estimated at $484 million. “That means the cost to the government could range from a gain of $17 million to a loss of more than $101 million,” says the AP.
No matter what the eventual gain or loss turns out to be, the news doesn’t bode well for a reelection bid that already finds itself in a close dogfight against an opponent with formidable financial backing.
Many Americans already believe the president overstepped his authority — by circumventing the entrenched Congress — when he called for the measure back in June. The opposition also views the program as a non-solution to a serious issue, arguing that Obama “kicked the can down the road” or “merely put a band-aid on the problem” — whichever idiom you prefer. So the last thing many Americans want to hear is that the government is going to grant 800,000 work permits to undocumented immigrants at a cost of $100 million dollars to the taxpayers.
Of course, the president could articulate the moral argument behind his program.
He could tell the American people that it’s the right thing to do — that such is the cost for allowing a broken and unjust immigration system to stand for so long. Americans can’t defer the rights of deserving young people just because the country can’t afford the cost at the moment. As King told the country nearly half a century ago, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
But odds are few people will want to hear that message right now, not at a time when most Americans are still muddling through the worst recession since Roosevelt.
Justice and morality, it would seem, are the perks of a booming economy.