On Meet the Press, President Obama named amnesty for illegal immigrants first in a list of priorities for his second term. This may just be another Lucy-and-the-football moment: Amnesty advocates are justified in their fears that congressional wrangling over the budget and gun control will crowd out immigration and that the administration is just stringing them along again.
Even if lawmakers find time to address immigration in a sustained way, there may be deadlock over the important question of a “comprehensive” versus a “targeted” approach. In other words, should Congress roll all issues related to immigration into one vast bill, as the Democrats would prefer, or should specific, more digestible parts be addressed separately, as with the STEM and DREAM acts?
But let’s put aside the workings of the Capitol Hill sausage factory for the time being. And let’s also stipulate, for the sake of argument, that the “comprehensive” approach is the right one — a deal encompassing legalization for most illegal aliens plus huge increases in future immigration, in exchange for promises of future enforcement. The logic of this approach is the same as that of the 1986 immigration law: Use amnesty to tie up the loose ends of past policy mistakes but crack down in the future to prevent the growth of a new illegal population.
One still needs to ask: Can this administration be trusted to honor such a bargain? Because if it cannot, then the millions of illegal immigrants who get amnesty would just be replaced with millions of new illegal immigrants, able to enter the United States and embed themselves with impunity.
This is not like picking stocks. In politics, past performance is a strong indicator of future results. And this administration’s performance has been appalling in its contempt for law and for the well-being of Americans. Let’s look at just a few recent examples of such contempt.
The most egregious was reported last month by the Boston Globe. The subhead of the story by the paper’s immigration reporter, Maria Sacchetti, summed it up: “US quietly released 8,500 criminals who were supposed to be deported — with deadly consequences.” The State Department takes no meaningful action to pressure foreign countries to take back their own citizens who have committed vicious crimes here. Immigration and Customs Enforcement almost never uses the authority it has to try to hold undeportable criminal aliens beyond the six-month period allowed by the Supreme Court. ICE also seldom tells crime victims or even local police that killers are being released back into the community. And the White House has made no effort whatsoever at getting a legislative fix to give ICE more leeway to hold dangerous criminals until they are deported.
A smaller but likewise disturbing indication of the Obama administration’s lack of interest in immigration enforcement came last month, when an illegal-alien registered sex offender, Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta, was found to be working as an intern in the office of New Jersey senator Robert Menendez. Bad as that is, the real problem was that, as the AP reported, Homeland Security officials told ICE field agents “several times” not to arrest Sanchez until after the election. On top of that, Sanchez had so little concern that authorities would investigate him that he actually applied for Obama’s unilateral (and illegal) quasi-amnesty for illegal aliens who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday.
That quasi-amnesty is yet another example of past performance that indicates future results. Known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), this administrative version of the DREAM Act provides a work card and a (legitimate) Social Security number to pretty much any illegal alien under 30. So far, more than 100,000 people have received the amnesty, and the sex offender Sanchez, mentioned above, appears to be the only person whose application has actually been rejected on the merits. Most troubling is how DACA demonstrates the president’s nonchalance about immigration law. After repeatedly saying in public that he had no authority under the Constitution to unilaterally grant amnesty to illegal aliens, fears of dampened Hispanic turnout for the November election caused him to simply ignore his earlier qualms and usurp the powers of Congress by issuing his DACA edict.
Finally, this administration is dismantling local partnerships with federal immigration authorities. This isn’t a dispute over congressional intent regarding the scope of local authority in enforcing immigration law, as was the case in the lawsuits against Arizona and other states. Congress created the 287(g) program in 1996 specifically to promote such cooperation, but ICE has just canceled 32 such partnerships, saying that these congressionally created programs were not “appropriate.” On top of that, new rules issued by ICE in a pre-Christmas news dump prohibit agents from taking into custody any illegal alien held by local law enforcement whose only offenses involve immigration violations. This is part of the continuing push to make immigration violations a “secondary offense,” like the failure to wear a seat belt is in most states — i.e., you can be punished for immigration violations only if you also violate another, “real” law.
And this overview of the Obama administration’s aversion to immigration enforcement doesn’t include the “prosecutorial discretion” memos telling agents to ignore non-violent illegals, the drop in ICE deportation requests before the immigration courts, the stagnation in deportation levels, the unconcern regarding fraud in the foreign-student program, Auntie Zeituni, Uncle Omar, Jose Antonio Vargas, and more.
As distasteful as pardoning lawbreakers is, the problem with amnesty has never been amnesty itself. Rather, it’s the certainty that amnesty will be followed by yet another wave of illegal aliens permitted to settle here owing to elite indifference to immigration law.
The Obama administration and its pro-amnesty allies (including Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush, Ed Gillespie, Al Cardenas, Grover Norquist, and others) would have us believe that after the amnesty is completed, then the administration will get serious about enforcing the immigration law. Then it will restore immigration partnerships with local law enforcement. Then it will act against foreign countries that don’t take back their citizens. Then it will ferret out immigration-related fraud and identity theft and tax evasion.
If you believe that, I have some Solyndra stock here for you.
— Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.