President Obama’s Immigration Action Step in the Right Direction

Nov 21, 2014

The National Association of Social Workers applauds President Obama’s decision to issue an executive action that will likely lead to as many as five million previously undocumented immigrants to be able to remain in the United States.

This action was very meaningful to immigrant families with children who were born in the United States (and are therefore U.S. citizens) and to undocumented parents. Indeed, Obama’s speech announcing his executive action made it clear that he is deeply committed to helping these families remain intact.

Still we must remember that more than 1,000 people are separated from their families every single day and many  are heads of households with minor children. Obama’s administrative relief will change the lives of millions of immigrant families, ensuring members of their community can support their families, go to school, and contribute to our nation’s shared prosperity. As a result, previously undocumented families will breathe a sigh of relief knowing their families will remain together without fear of being deported.

In a statement that summarized the essence of his actions, the President said:

Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

However, for several reasons, our celebration should be somewhat muted. While five million undocumented immigrants will benefit from this executive action there are still more than six million individuals who will still “live in the shadows.”

We are also deeply concerned about the lack of access to health care (through the Affordable Care Act), which continues to be unattainable to those who are covered by the President’s executive order. This is especially problematic for female-headed households with school-aged children. We urge the administration to explore avenues that will facilitate access to affordable health coverage to those who benefit from administrative relief, including those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. The DACA initiative granted certain children relief from deportation through a 2012 immigration policy change ordered by President Obama.

While we are greatly encouraged by the President’s action, to some degree it is only a first step. NASW and its partners in the fight for social justice and civil rights must continue to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that fixes our broken immigration system once and for all.

MelWilson2NASW’s 1,000 Experts Campaign brings together the brightest minds in social work to address social issues of the day. The 1,000 Experts Child Immigration Crisis package contains NASW resource materials on immigration, including a Social Justice Brief with recommendations on address the issue of unaccompanied child immigrants and an NASW Immigration Policy Toolkit. To learn more about how NASW is addressing immigration reform and how you can get involved contact Mel Wilson, Department of Social Justice and Human Rights, at mwilson@naswdc.org.

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