Administrative Relief: An Early Gift for American Workers

GuardRailWorkers_12_2_2014Last month, President Obama announced his long-awaited decision to provide relief from deportation to up to five million people, including the parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. This executive action will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the lives of millions of people, providing greater stability for families and communities.

In addition to removing the threat of deportation for many immigrants, administrative relief will benefit the U.S. economy. Immigrants who qualify will finally work in this country legally, which will likely boost their earnings and increase overall tax contributions, helping to fund critical programs such as Social Security. While it has been long established that many undocumented immigrants are already paying taxes, adjusting the legal status of millions of workers will foster greater and more open participation in the tax system. In 2010, undocumented immigrants contributed almost $13 billion to the Social Security Administration, a number that would be even higher if they had legal status.

All American workers will benefit from the president’s action. Studies have shown that undocumented workers, who are often employed in low-wage jobs, are frequently victims of wage theft, either through minimum-wage violations or an employer’s refusal to compensate them for earned overtime pay. One 2009 study showed that more than one-third of undocumented immigrants were not paid the legally required minimum wage. Under administrative relief, newly authorized workers will receive necessary workplace protections. They will be able to demand fair pay and protection from violations such as wage theft, raising the standards of working conditions for all American workers.

Our EconomySimilar to the impact that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) had on young immigrants in 2012, this administrative relief will also improve the financial outlook for immigrants who qualify. Adjustment to legal status will help previously undocumented workers attain better-paying jobs, increasing their ability to save income and improve their overall financial stability. Many will also enter the mainstream financial system for the first time. NCLR’s research shows that identification requirements were a barrier that kept immigrants from opening a bank account and establishing a relationship with a financial institution—a barrier that would be removed for those who adjust their status. This means they can access mainstream financial products and won’t have to depend on costly and predatory alternatives such as payday loans, which can leave a typical borrower trapped in a cycle of debt for more than six months. Through administrative action, individuals will have greater opportunities to build a positive credit history, leading to long-term financial success.

The economic outlook for immigrants is much more positive because of President Obama’s bold action. We applaud him for his leadership in providing millions of hardworking immigrants with temporary relief from deportation, a deed that will benefit the nation’s economy. This executive action is certainly a milestone to celebrate and a giant step forward, but we will continue working for reform that benefits all immigrants.

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