With agents of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement raiding 7-Elevens across the country intent on deporting illegal immigrants and punishing the companies that employ them, immigration reform is taking center stage this week in Washington, D.C. 

Democrats have long hoped to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants temporarily allowed in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which allows children brought to America by family members illegally to remain in the country temporarily and acquire work visas. As of this writing, a federal injunction has blocked the Trump Administration from rescinding the work permits of these undocumented immigrants. But that's not a permanent solution.

A bipartisan group of Senators has come to an agreement on an immigration deal, but Donald Trump has not offered his support of the bill. The bill reportedly includes a path for DACA recipients to become citizens and changes to the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies while also providing a border security funding package.

Whatever the bipartisan deal looks like now, it’s going change drastically as negotiations take place to please the President become passable in the Senate and the House of Representatives. So what can we expect from the immigration negotiations?

A Wall Will be Built

Trump was asked if he would support a DACA bill that did not include money for the border wall he has proposed in a news conference, Wednesday at the White House. “No, no, no,” was his answer.

Trump won’t approve immigration legislation if it doesn’t approve funding for a border wall. It was his biggest campaign promise -- and that Mexico would pay for it. Mexico isn’t paying for it, and Senate Democrats won’t likely allow tax dollars to be spent on a border wall. But there’s still Ted Cruz’s bill to make El Chapo (Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán Loera) and profits secured from other drug lords to pay for the wall.

The Department of Homeland Security estimated in February 2017 that Trump’s border wall would cost roughly $21.6 billion. U.S. authorities are seeking the forfeiture of roughly $14 billion in profits from illicit drug trafficking by El Chapo.

Marijuana Policy could Play a Part in Immigration Negotiations

U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions gave Republicans leverage in negotiations by ending protections for states with legal marijuana, so Republicans could very well demand funding for a border wall in exchange for protections of medical and recreational marijuana providers and users.

That doesn’t mean Trump will be able to fund his border wall exclusively with taxpayer dollars, though. Congressional Democrats are already frustrated by a tax plan that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says will add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade. Even if Trump’s tax plan will raise America’s gross-domestic product by .5 percent annually, it still increases the federal deficit by $1.252 trillion. And now Congressional Republicans have their sights set on cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

Deportations Will Increase

Congressional Democrats will have to find some solace in fulfilling the dreams of Dreamers currently residing in America under DACA, because immigrants residing in the country under the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies will be deported en masse.

The ICE raids of 7-Elevens throughout the country are just the beginning. Refugees residing in America with Temporary Protected Status will likely have their statuses terminated and be forced to return to their home countries, which aren’t likely ready to receive them. Most of these refugees escaped natural disasters or war. It was announced Monday that nearly 200,000 TPS migrants from El Salvador must leave the country, and there are another 125,000 TPS migrants residing in American who could be next.

To give you a sense of who these TPS migrants are, 81 to 88 percent of them are employed, which is a considerably higher rate than the 63 percent of American-born citizens who are employed. They do work many Americans wouldn’t do if the jobs were available to them -- 51,700 work construction, 32,400 in food service, 15,800 are landscapers, 10,000 more take care of your kids in daycares and 9,200 work in grocery stores. Almost a third of all TPS migrants are paying mortgages, too.

The Economy won’t Benefit from Deportations

Trump will chalk these deportations up as jobs created for Americans, but it won’t necessarily result in a strengthened U.S. economy. The Center for American Progress estimates "a policy of mass deportation would immediately reduce the nation's GDP by 1.4 percent, and ultimately by 2.6 percent, and reduce cumulative GDP over 10 years by $4.7 trillion."

Agriculture and construction industries are expected to be the industries hardest hit by mass deportations, so housing shortages will worsen as will agriculture exports due to a lack of a sufficient labor force. Americans aren’t suddenly going to flock to farms and ranches in search of jobs vacated by immigrants.

It’s also estimated that illegal immigrants and their employers pay between $7 and $12 billion into Social Security, which would further devastate the program if Congressional Republicans indeed cut funding for it.

So what we can expect from the immigration reform negotiations is: 1) some sort of border wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border, 2) possible marijuana protections for states with legal and medical marijuana legislation in effect, 3) more deportations, and 4) a worse U.S. economy.


 

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While United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era, federal protections for recreational marijuana businesses and users in states that have adopted legal cannabis legislation, that won’t affect states’ medical marijuana providers and users -- at least until Jan. 19.

Indications are that medical marijuana will be off the table when it comes to the Justice Department’s crackdown on cannabis. President Donald Trump went on the record in support of medical marijuana prior to the election, so it’s unlikely Sessions would act in a manner that could jeopardize his President’s reelection chances any further. But if Congress can’t come to an agreement to fund the government before Jan. 19, the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment prohibiting the Justice Department from spending federal funds to interfere with states’ implementation and enforcement of medical cannabis laws will expire.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment must be renewed each fiscal year to remain in effect, and is usually done so through omnibus spending bills. It was most recently renewed in a stopgap spending bill on Dec. 22, which expires Jan. 19. So if Congress fails to pass a budget for the fiscal year or at least another stopgap spending bill to fund the government temporarily, medical marijuana providers and patients will no longer be protected by Rohrabacher-Farr and subject to federal prosecution.

Sessions is making sure the Justice Department is prepared for the opportunity to enforce federal cannabis law. He appointed 17 interim U.S. attorneys general just days prior to rescinding the protections for recreational cannabis providers and users. The 17 temporary appointees can serve for 120 days before Trump must nominate permanent U.S. attorneys and seek to have them confirmed by the Senate. Sessions has empowered all 94 U.S. attorneys to enforce cannabis law as they see fit.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado said he would block Trump's Justice Department judicial nominees until the decision is reversed. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a state where cannabis is legal to use by adults, insists that protecting states with legal cannabis legislation should be part of budget negotiations to avoid a government shutdown. If the government shuts down, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would continue to be funded, so raids of both recreational and medical marijuana providers would be a possibility. Even if Sessions doesn’t crackdown on cannabis, he’s given Republicans some leverage in negotiating a new budget to fund the government. Perhaps in exchange for continued protection for medical and recreational marijuana states, Trump will get his border wall funded.

Regardless, medical and recreational marijuana providers and users haven’t been this vulnerable since before Rohrabacher-Farr went into effect in December of 2014. If the bipartisan condemnation of Sessions’ decision is any indication of what’s to come, protecting cannabis markets, both medical and recreational, will be a top priority over the next week.

As of January 2017, recreational cannabis markets had created 123,000 full-time jobs in America, and a recent report by New Frontier Data forecasts that tax revenues from legal marijuana sales were $559 million in 2017. 


 

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