Obama's muddling immigration mess


Arkansas National Guard Soldiers building a fence along the Mexican border

Mash-up is the only word that comes close to describing Obama’s immigration policies.

In the music scene, DJs mash-up pre-recorded songs to create their own tracks. Obama has his own form of hip-hop; mashing together proposals that purport to strengthen immigration with schemes intended undermine enforcement of the law. While mash-ups might be good for pumping up the jam, they make for terrible public policies. As result, at the end of the president’s term how Washington deals with immigration will unquestionably be more of a muddle than when he started.

Obama has been trying to tweak how the government handles immigration almost since day one. Some of these initiatives actually make sense. For example, just last month the administration declared it would streamline the wait for those unlawfully present (with family members here who are U.S. citizens). 

To qualify, individuals have to identify themselves to authorities and leave the country and reenter on a proper visa. What the government procedure will do is let qualifying individuals apply for a provisional waiver before going to their countries for the visa so they can back to the US in weeks or months rather than years. This particular proposal is not “backdoor” amnesty. Under current law, these individuals would likely qualify for a visa to reenter the United States anyway.

This change is a reasonable and compassionate administrative reform, just speeding up a process that was always intended as a means to keep families together.

On the other hand, the administration has rolled other policies that do amount to little more than “stealth amnesty.”  This started in February 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security provided work visas to illegal immigrants busted in a worksite raid in Bellingham, Washington, in return for prosecutorial cooperation.

Then, the department announced it would pull the plug worksite raids. Instead, agents were ordered to conduct paper audits. At best that merely results in illegal immigrants losing jobs—not being deported.

Obama didn’t stop there. The White House ordered a legal assault on state and local action to curb illegal immigration. Obama unleashed the Justice Department to carpet bomb with legal action states like Arizona that passed tough laws on their with. This legal assault occurred jointly with weakening the government’s popular 287(g) program that allowed states and localities to enforce federal immigration law.

Finally, Homeland Security announced it would stop deportation hearings for some and ordered a review of all pending cases to find loopholes for as many illegal immigrants as possible.

Three years on, it is clear the president is not really interested in fixing the mess. In the State of the Union address he repeated calls for amnesty and the Dream Act, proposals that have been rejected under both Democrat and Republican Presidents when their parties controlled both houses. If Obama was really interested in solving problems, why would he dredge-up dead letter legislation?

It is impossible to make sense of policies that on the one hand claim to be beefing-up border security and strengthening immigration enforcement, while on the other appear to be doing everything possible to ensure that as many as possible pay no penalty for violating US laws.

Obama’s policies only make perfect sense if the purpose of his mashup is to pander to stakeholders that believing scoffing immigration laws will help secure the Hispanic vote without the President being nailed with the label that he is weak on border security.

It’s a scramble designed to serve-up winning election strategy not a scheme that will secure our broken borders and fix a deeply flawed immigration system.