Report says Obama amnesty plan will add 1.76 million new workers

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

A pro-amnesty group is forecasting that up to 1.76 million young illegal immigrants would get work permits under President Barack Obama’s de facto amnesty announced in June, amid a stalled economy and near-record levels of unemployment.

That estimate is twice as large as the 800,000 new workers predicted by White House officials.

Another 800,000 illegal immigrant youths will be eligible for the de facto amnesty once they graduate, said the report, released Aug. 7 by the Migration Policy Institute, a well-funded, D.C.-based pro-amnesty group.

The new estimate says the de facto amnesty would add as may workers to the legal rolls as the economy has created during the last 12 months, or during all of 2011. Currently, roughly 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, or have dropped out of the workforce.

The officials unemployment rate is currently 8.3 percent, and that number is much higher among young people and minorities.

For example, half of African-Americans in New York are unemployed, and almost half of adults aged 18 to 24 are unemployed. Unemployment among Latinos is also high, with 10.3 percent recorded in July as formally unemployed and still looking for work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The new estimates was released after administration officials relaxed the eligibility rules for the controversial amnesty plan, which was first announced by Obama in a June Rose Garden speech.

Under the proposal, younger illegal-immigrants would be given “deferred action” permits for two-year stays, plus a work permit.

The estimate of 1.76 million new workers is a boost from the group’s earlier estimate of 1.35 million new workers.

The increase of 350,000 new workers is prompted by the government’s announcement that it would include high-school dropouts “as long as they have re-enrolled by the date of their application,” said an Aug. 7 press release from the MPI.

Almost 60 percent of the eligible illegal immigrants live in California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.

Roughly 85 percent of the work permits would be awarded to people from South America or Latin America. Nine percent of the work-permits will be given to Asians, said the report.

The president’s campaign-season policy — which was pitched by officials as a large-scale exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” — has been credited by Democrats with boosting Obama’s support among Hispanic voters into the 70 percent level.

Obama’s campaign officials have frequently said they’re trying to win enough Hispanic voters to carry several swing states, including Virginia and Florida.

Controversy over the policy isn’t necessarily a negative for the Obama campaign, because Hispanic voters may feel pressured to rally around other Hispanics and vote for Obama if there’s heated public criticism of the policy.

Still, there are some risks for the Obama campaign: Several polls show the president’s plan is mostly disliked by swing voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Those voters may align themselves with Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who has promised to enforce immigration laws.

The private sector has created only 1 million new jobs in 2012. That’s not enough to keep pace with population growth, which ads roughly 150,000 new graduates and legal immigrants each month.
The unemployment rate has remained flat, partly because hundreds of thousands of surplus workers have dropped out of the labor force. This continued drop in the workforce participation rate is creating a hidden army of unemployed Americans who will likely try to get jobs when the economy starts growing.

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