Earlier this month, Cecelia Munoz, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and formerly of the National Council of La Raza, where she openly embraced amnesty for illegal aliens, announced a groundbreaking turn of events: for the first time ever, the White House is usurping congressional constitutional authority to determine immigration law and policy. Not only is the White House granting amnesty, with rumors of value-added work authorizations for illegals (that we have no idea who they are or whether they pose a criminal or terrorist threat), but they are also making sure that immigration law only applies to those illegal aliens convicted of serious crimes. Every other illegal alien is free to stay, even if they have an outstanding deportation order, according to Ms. Munoz. The White House is claiming that this is all fine and dandy, because, for goodness’ sake, the president is “aggressively searching for partners in Congress who are willing to work with him.”
Considering that the president has not found such congressional partners in 2.5 years in office seems to mean, now, that the president is free to do as he pleases. The former constitutional law professor could not even get the DREAM Act passed. Why? Because the DREAM Act tried to grant auxiliary amnesty to anyone related to DREAM Act recipients. That was too much for Congress to swallow. Thus, it failed, more than once. Once it did, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton (remember Morton has been given a No Confidence vote twice in a year by the union representing immigration enforcement agents), quickly circulated a DREAM Act-like memo about “prosecutorial discretion,” going above and beyond the Dream Act’s realm of eligible recipients for deportation relief.
Remember, the president has encouraged illegal entry and tried amnesty in a variety of cheesy-cake ways already:
- Destroying Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ability to do their job — which is the legal basis upon which this White House announcement relies — which I have written about extensively in a series of blogs (see ICE’s Mission Melt 5: Another No Confidence Vote for Morton [June 2011])
- By waiving grounds of inadmissibility and lessening the standards of hardship to enable those related to those legally here to enter and stay, as discussed in 2010 internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service lawyer memos (see UPDATE: USCIS Memo Details Obama Administration Plan for Executive Action Amnesty [July 2010])
- Insisting the “border is more secure than ever,” while working on a policy of “acceptable levels of illegal immigration” at the same time, all under the rubric of failing to produce a border security strategy since taking office (see Obama’s Emerging Un-Border Policy: ‘Acceptable Levels of Illegal Immigration’ [May 2011])
The issue of deportation of criminals is certainly worthwhile, but not when couched in policies that:
- usurp immigration law;
- usurp congressional authority to pass immigration law;
- usurp immigration court judgments in place for deportation;
- assure those that are not convicted of a crime (remember, most prosecutors drop cases due to resource constraints) can stay;
- encourage illegal entry since there is no consequence for illegal entry;
- make the enforcement of law not based on the law, but policy, and thus inevitably not evenly applied;
- encourage fraud and terrorist travel (for an extensive discussion of fraud related to amnesty, see Immigration and Terrorism: Moving Beyond the 9/11 Staff report on Terrorist Travel (September 2005));
- enable access to American jobs in a bleak economy through a value-added of work authorization (that is the rumor);
- be potentially available to obtain services such as education for their children, health and welfare benefits by grant of amnesty; and
- encourage lawlessness, including gang and drug cartel activity known to operate in every major city in the U.S. Remember, these people too, if not convicted of a crime, are now welcomed into our communities nationwide.
Here is Ms. Munoz’s well-couched statement. While attempting to spin “amnesty for all but for the worst of the worst” as good for our country, what comes to mind instead is a President who cares about the illegal alien population more than our constitution, our economy, or our security as a nation.
President Obama is deeply committed to fixing our immigration laws and has been aggressively searching for partners in Congress who are willing to work with him to pass a new law. As he focuses on building a new 21st century immigration system that meets our nation’s economic and security needs, the President has a responsibility to enforce the existing laws in a smart and effective manner. This means making decisions that best focus the resources that Congress gives the Executive Branch to do this work. There are more than 10 million people who are in the U.S. illegally; it’s clear that we can’t deport such a large number. So the Administration has developed a strategy to make sure we use those resources in a way that puts public safety and national security first. If you were running a law enforcement agency anywhere in the world, you would target those who pose the greatest harm before those who do not. Our immigration enforcement work is focused the same way.
Under the President’s direction, for the first time ever the Department of Homeland Security has prioritized the removal of people who have been convicted of crimes in the United States. And they have succeeded; in 2010 DHS removed 79,000 more people who had been convicted of a crime compared to 2008. Today, they announced that they are strengthening their ability to target criminals even further by making sure they are not focusing our resources on deporting people who are low priorities for deportation. This includes individuals such as young people who were brought to this country as small children, and who know no other home. It also includes individuals such as military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel. It makes no sense to spend our enforcement resources on these low-priority cases when they could be used with more impact on others, including individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes.
So DHS, along with the Department of Justice, will be reviewing the current deportation caseload to clear out low-priority cases on a case-by-case basis and make more room to deport people who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk. And they will take steps to keep low-priority cases out of the deportation pipeline in the first place. They will be applying common sense guidelines to make these decisions, like a person’s ties and contributions to the community, their family relationships and military service record. In the end, this means more immigration enforcement pressure where it counts the most, and less where it doesn’t – that’s the smartest way to follow the law while we stay focused on working with the Congress to fix it.
Cecilia Muñoz is White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs