The Obama administration’s courageous decision to grant innocent, undocumented youth protection from deportation makes good sense from a moral, economic, and political perspective. Here are five reasons why:

First, and most importantly, it is the right thing to do. These kids are blameless and a clear national consensus has emerged that they should be given the opportunity to earn the American Dream. This is why opponents of the president, excepting radical extremists like Rep. Steve King, have chosen to attack the legality of the action rather than the substance of the policy. Unfortunately for them, the president’s legal authority to do this is irrefutable.

Second, it is smart law enforcement. Every administration has to make choices about how to deploy law enforcement resources. And it makes no sense to focus resources on individuals who everyone agrees are in violation of the law through no fault of their own. So temporarily taking these kids out of the enforcement matrix until Congress can fulfill its responsibilities allows the enforcement agencies to better focus on removing those who actually pose a threat.

[See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

Third, it makes obvious fiscal sense. America has already invested in these kids by educating them through high school. It makes no sense to deny the country a return on that investment by preventing them from giving back as productive, contributing Americans. Enabling them to pursue higher education and work lawfully means they will earn more and pay taxes on what they’ve earned.

Fourth, it will generate economic growth. Keeping these kids on the margins of society is economically self-defeating. If they cannot work lawfully, they can’t earn money, which means their ability to buy goods and services is diminished, thereby contributing to an overall drag on the economy. Enabling them to work will allow them to contribute their skills, start businesses, and pay taxes.

Fifth, it provides clarity to an important group of voters. Former Gov. Mitt Romney ran one of the most extreme anti-immigrant primary campaigns for a leading candidate in memory. He vowed to veto the DREAM Act and pursue a national self-deportation policy. Couple that with the fact that his party has blocked progressive immigration reforms for the last decade and it is clear where he stands on the issue. But the president’s tough immigration enforcement record was giving some Hispanic voters pause about his commitment to reform. Last week’s bold step to protect innocent youth, however, provides clarity about where he stands. There is no longer any question about where the candidates stand on an issue of deep personal importance to the Hispanic electorate.


By Marshall Fitz, Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress