Have you been trying to digest President Obama's speech and executive order on immigration, sifting through the media reports in an attempt to figure out what it means - if anything - to your staffing business? We have been busy doing that. And while we don't have hard and fast answers or definitive conclusions, we have aggregated various voices that might help frame your thinking and make a little more sense of it all.
First the details. In a 15-minute speech to the American people Thursday night, the president announced a plan to protect 5 million undocumented workers from deportation.
The Executive Order
Now President Obama is in Nevada signing an executive order granting “deferred action” to two illegal immigrant groups; parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents who have been in the country for five years, and young people who who were brought into the country illegally as of 2010.
"We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules," said the president in his remarks. "We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes -- you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is."
Obama also said, "Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America."
USA Today said in this article speechwriters dusted off President George W. Bush's 2006 speech on immigration, and built Obama's remarks around it. When Bush spoke from the Oval Office to broadcast networks a Republican House had passed an immigration bill stalled in the Republican Senate.
Flooding the labor market
Neil Munro is White House correspondent for The Daily Caller. He states in this piece the president's amnesty action will quickly add as many foreign workers to the nation’s legal labor force as the total number of new jobs created by his economy since 2009.
"Not all the five million illegal immigrants who get permits will work, and many are already working under fake names or for cash. However, their new work permits will allow them to compete for jobs now held or sought by blue-collar Americans, including the many African-Americans and Latinos who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012."
Worries about what this will do to the nation's workforce have long been voiced by Joe Guzzardi, National Media Director and Senior Writing Fellow, Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). He says for illegal immigrants, work permits, not citizenship, seems to be the goal, and that the president's move is bad for working Americans.
“All of a sudden 5 million more people will be able to enter into the job market, compete with unemployed or underemployed Americans, and also potentially displace working Americans, because some of those five million would probably be willing to perform existing jobs at a lower rate of pay,” he told Southern California Public Radio.
President Obama has obviously been aware of these arguments before, and referenced them in his speech.
"I know some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society."
Economics or Politics?
One person commenting on a BloombergView post says, yes, the issue does have partisan overtones, in terms of who immigrants might vote for, but the main issue is economic.
"There are certain industries and regions that benefit from low cost labor and there are those that don't. The farmer looking for someone to bend over and pick tomatos will turn a blind eye, [while] a farmer reaping grain from the cab of his mechanized harvester will want immigration laws enforced."
Utah Rep Jason Chaffetz, who will replace Rep. Darrell Issa as chair of the House Oversight Committee, told Fox News that the president’s timing on announcing the plan was “crystal clear.”
“It’s all about politics,” Chaffetz said. “He just got slaughtered in an election.”
I realize I didn't full answer the question my headline poses by any stretch. That would be difficult given we are only hours removed from President Obama's speech and executive action outline. Hopefully though we have provided some interesting nuggets that at the very least can spark some meaningful discussion and debate that can help all of us figure out what this move means to the staffing industry.