President Obama’s Shadow Work Permit System Sees the Ugly Light of Day


“Sí se puede,” that’s Spanish for “Here’s your work permit.”

Work permits are officially known as EADs, “Employment Authorization Documents.” The table below is featured in a report issued this week by the Center for Immigration Studies (“CIS”), which, I’ll admit, is an anti-amnesty group. CIS says its report is based on information that it obtained from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) using a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. Although CIS has an ideological ax to grind on this issue, so does virtually every politician who opines on it, so let’s assume for the sake of argument that the numbers below are accurate and worth some consideration. If the data were bogus, pro-immigration groups, who passionately take the other side of this debate, would probably be able to prove it easily with their own FOIA request.

Supposedly, the law allows for 1.1 million new legal immigrants and 700,000 guest workers each year (for a sense of scale, there were 3.9 million births in the US in 2013). CIS claims that for the period 2009-2014 the Obama administration has given out 7.4 million work permits beyond the congressionally mandated amount (see figure at bottom right of the table). This certainly seems odd, and several of the table’s individual line items certainly don’t provide much reassurance. The first section of the table, “Temporary Categories,” has a sub-total of 2.1 million distributed work permits. According to CIS, 1.4 million of those temporary visitors fall into categories where their employment in the US is prohibited by law. For example, “Tourists” and “Foreign Students” got 547K and 593K of the work permits, respectively. 213K more went to family of both students and guest workers (the largest line item among them is “Family of Temporary Workers” at 140K). It seems reasonable to ask: Why are these people getting work permits? If enough people feel there’s a legitimate reason, they should try to change the law; until they’re able, it’s unclear why the current law should be ignored.  Continue reading