The Corner

Immigration Policy by Executive Order

I wrote last week about the Left’s campaign to embarrass Republicans by sending children to town-hall meetings to urge GOP lawmakers not to “deport my daddy.” It appears to be an exersize in phony outrage, for a number of reasons. Congressional Republicans don’t really have a say over existing immigration policy, and the Obama administration, which is charged with enforcing that policy, has repeatedly used its “prosecutorial discretion” to relax the requirements for deportation, in what some argue is a violation of the law:

In [a] June 2011 memo, ICE director John Morton listed 19 different “factors” for ICE agents, officers, and attorneys to consider when deciding whether or not to initiate removal proceedings against an illegal immigrant who has been apprehended, including “the person’s ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships,” and “whether the person is likely to be granted temporary or permanent status or other relief from removal, including as a relative of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.”

That memo served as the basis for the administration’s controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which effectively bypassed Congress and enacted the DREAM Act by executive fiat . . .

What about the parents of DACA recipients? The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website states that information about a DACA applicant’s family members or guardians “will not be referred to ICE for purposes of immigration enforcement.” In other words, even if a DACA recipient’s parents are known to be in the country illegally, the administration does not appear to consider them a priority for removal.

Last Friday, the administration issued yet another policy directive along these lines, mandating some prosecutorial discretion with regard to illegal immigrants who are the parents or primary caretakers of minor children, as well as for individuals who have “a direct interest in family court or child welfare proceedings,” making deportating less likely. The new policy also directs U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to “consider facilitating the return of a removed parent or legal guardian in compelling humanitarian cases.”

Representative Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, slammed the decision. “President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws,” he said in a statement. “The primary reason why our immigration system is broken today is because our immigration laws have largely been ignored by past and present administrations.”

Goodlatte’s committee has already approved legislation designed to limit executive discretion in the enforcement of immigration law by allowing state and local authorities to craft their own immigration policies, provided they are consistent with federal statute. Such action from the White House “poisons” the immigration debate, Goodlatte said, because it “shows that the Administration is not serious about fixing our broken immigration system . . . President Obama’s disregard for the rule of law only encourages more illegal immigration.”

Senator Marco Rubio has warned that if Congress fails to pass a comprehensive immigration bill Obama may simply try to legalize much of the illegal population through executive order; the administration’s latest actions could be an effort to stoke those fears. However, as one GOP aide points out, the Gang of Eight legislation would, like Obamacare, give the administration sweeping authority over its implementation, and open the door to even greater executive “discretion” as millions of illegal immigrants would become eligible for legal status, and eventually citizenship.



Andrew Stiles — Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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