The Supreme Court Punt on Immigration Affects Everyone. Here's Why

The Supreme Court today deadlocked over the legality of President Barack Obama’s effort to shield the undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizens, a move that exposes some 4 million people to a higher risk of deportation and denies them an opportunity to work legally in the U.S.

Even if you’re not an immigrant, you should care. Beyond the legalities, the court’s decision is a blunt reminder of how our economy is being yoked by outdated and ineffective immigration policies.

The background

About 10 million families in the U.S. have at least one member who would have been eligible for relief under the Obama order, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA for short.

Announced in 2014, the plan sought to protect parents of American-born children from deportation and authorized millions of them to work in the U.S. legally for three years.

It had the potential to pull an estimated 100,000 families out of poverty and give economic respite to millions more, according to research from the Migration Policy Institute. By raising incomes, it offered  families a helping hand into homeownership, too. And 69 percent of people eligible for DAPA have lived in the U.S. a decade or more.

In March, Redfin and more than 60 other tech companies and leaders asked the Supreme Court to green light the Obama plan.

“The failure of our political system to make progress on modernizing our nation’s immigration system has made it harder for U.S. businesses to compete in the global marketplace,” they told the court.

In March, Redfin and more than 60 other tech companies and leaders asked the Supreme Court to green light the Obama plan. 

What does this have to do with housing?

Undocumented immigrants constitute more than 5 percent of the U.S. workforce, which means they’re a big contributor to our economic growth.

In some industries, including homebuilding, their ranks are even bigger. In housing, immigrant workers are easing a skills shortage that’s contributing to construction woes and low housing inventory.

More than one in five construction industry workers are foreign born, according to the National Association of Homebuilders, meaning we need our immigrant population to keep the market functioning.

Increasingly, immigrants are homebuyers, too. They accounted for more than a third of household growth in the past decade and stabilized housing demand as the relatively small generation X population came of age, according to The State of the Nation’s Housing, a report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

“Going forward, as the millennials replace the gen-Xers among households in their 30s and 40s, immigrants will fuel additional need for housing, adding to the strong demand expected from what already is the largest, most diverse generation in history,” Harvard researchers wrote.

What's next?

One one level, DAPA was an act of presidential  frustration with Washington gridlock. At its best it was a temporary fix, no substitute for comprehensive reform. But it offered mercy, a measure of peace and an economic lift to millions of families, and thus the rest of us.  

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has vowed to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, congratulated the court. Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, called the court’s decision “unacceptable.”

With homeownership near a 30-year low and a subpar levels of new housing even eight years after the crisis, the cost of doing nothing about immigration hits all of us.

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