The decision to grant residency and work rights to young illegal aliens who meet certain conditions is an amnesty in all but name. A conditional amnesty, yes, but amnesty. The trouble with amnesty has always been the incentive effects. It's possible that amnesty may be a necessary final stage in immigration reform, but to put amnesty in place before effective enforcement measures are in place—and before authorities are certain that as many illegals as possible have voluntarily repatriated—is to invite another wave of illegal migration just as soon as business conditions improve. That may not seem on the verge of happening soon, but it will happen.
The word "amnesty" suggests that these children did something wrong, other than grow up. That's what makes this different. Alex Nowrasteh, who supports freer immigration, worries that the new policy won't amount to much:
[B]efore we get too thrilled about the prospects of this sorely needed temporary liberalization, we should remember that hardly anything changed the last time the Obama administration used its prosecutorial discretion to review deportation cases. His administration promised to wade through backlogged cases and close those where the unauthorized immigrants had strong American family ties and no criminal records. Since that policy went into effect in November 2011, DHS officials have reviewed more than 411,000 cases and less than 2 percent of them were closed.
Nate Cohn considers the political consequences:
McCain had a moderate reputation on immigration issues, even if he abandoned comprehensive reform in pursuit of the GOP nomination. Romney’s stances on immigration are even less palatable to Latino voters, and it’s unclear whether most Latino voters are aware yet of Romney’s most controversial stances. Most polls suggest there are more undecided Latino voters than other racial/ethnic groups, and Romney is generally polling below McCain’s eventual standing among Latino voters. If Obama won an outsized share of undecided Latino voters, he could perform better among Latinos than he did in 2008, even if that seems unlikely given the economic circumstances.