A few days ago, President Obama announced an executive order that would allow young people under the age of 30 who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, had no criminal record and were enrolled in school or the military, amnesty status from deportation.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg released a poll gauging support for President Obama’s recent amnesty grant. The poll showed that 64 percent of likely voters backed the shift, 30 percent opposed, while another 6 percent expressed ambivalence about the move.
The poll also found that support tended to break down along party lines. Fifty-six percent of likely Republican voters opposed the decision while 86 percent of Democrats expressed approval. Sixty-six percent of independents backed the policy change, while 26 percent disagreed.
The poll’s primary question couched the issue by stating, “President Obama announced that the U.S. would halt the deportation of some illegal immigrants if they came here before age 16, have been in the country for five years, have no criminal record, are in school or have a high school diploma or have been honorably discharged from the military. Do you agree or disagree with this new policy?”
By invoking deportations, the Bloomberg question was framed in an emotional way and omitted key details concerning the new amnesty. Obviously, the poll was not conducted in a completely scientific fashion, and many are already decrying the ways in which it distorts a deeply divisive issue.
First of all, pollsters failed to mention many of the critical details encompassing the executive order. Roy Beck, of NumbersUSA, points out, “It doesn’t mention that at least one and a half million illegal aliens are being offered work permits to compete with the 20 million under- and unemployed Americans who can’t find a full-time job.”
The Obama administration claimed that only 800,000 aliens would be eligible under the amnesty, but Pew Hispanic Center, a reputable immigration research organization, pegs the number higher at approximately 1.4 million. Furthermore, because the amnesty does not outline any end date for its expiration, millions more could become eligible for work permits in the near future.
These actions will further compound the disastrous state of the youth labor market. The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank based in DC, captured the grimness of this labor market in its 2011 report entitled “The Class of 2011: Young Workers Face a Dire Labor Market without a Safety Net.”
The EPI discovered that unemployment rates for young workers are higher now than in any period since the 1940s. The unemployment rate for high school graduates who were not enrolled in school skyrocketed from 12 percent in 2007 to 22.5 percent in 2010. College graduate unemployment rates are also astronomically high, especially for minority graduates. The unemployment rate for young black college graduates in 2010 was 19 percent and the unemployment rate for Hispanics grads hovered around 13.8 percent. Obama’s decision to add a million and half more people to this already tight labor market will only further exacerbate the woes that these young people face.
Obviously, such information was not communicated to poll takers prior to poll submission.
Furthermore, respondents in the June 19 poll were not informed about specific details governing the amnesty, primarily because these specific details have not been ironed out yet. For example, it is not clear how many hours of schooling an alien would have had to complete to be eligible for work permits.
Also, it is not clear how the federal government would be able to verify critical parts of the amnesty such as the stipulation that recipients need to be residing in the US prior to their 16th birthday or have been living in the US for five continuous years before being granted work permits.
It seems inevitable that thousands of people will attempt to turn in fraudulent documents in order to be granted legal status. Thus far the Obama administration has not provided any evidence that it could successfully deter the majority of such fraud. The administration has also failed to outline any enforcement mechanisms that would accompany the amnesty measure.
Pollsters should have been more explicit about the difficulty of enforcing such a hazy order and should have outlined the high likelihood that such an order would encourage future illegal immigration. Instead, Bloomberg kept silent on the matter and thus unintentionally (or intentionally) masked the complexity of the issue.
It is also not clear how ICE and other immigration components of the government plan to pay for these new rules. Obviously, the cost of the enforcement will rise greatly as government officials must sift through a great deal more of information when deciding petitions on a case-by-case basis. If Bloomberg respondents were reminded of these costs, the unintended consequences and the enormous complications of enforcing this measure, they likely would have been much more hesitant to voice support.
Leah Durant is executive director of Progressives for Immigration Reform, a non-profit organization seeking to educate the public on the unintended consequences of mass migration through research, advocacy and engagement. Her column is distributed by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.