by Joe Guzzardi
June 29, 2011
Here’s how little importance the federal government attaches to immigration law enforcement. Earlier this week, a 21-year-old university student stood before the Senate Judiciary Committee and in a room packed with immigration officials and announced her illegal status. Despite the apparent boldness of her statement Angela Hernandez, the valedictorian of her Arizona State mechanical engineering class, is 99.9 percent confident that she won’t be deported. Dozens of others like Hernandez have openly protested federal immigration laws in Congress’ halls and offices yet have stayed safely in the country.
By re-introducing the DREAM Act this month, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin has set off another round of demonstrations by illegal immigrant students and their advocates despite the certainty that his legislation will not pass in this Congress. In a decade of attempts, DREAM Act has been defeated more than a dozen times.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano uses her words carefully when evaluating the students’ status. Napolitano is quick to point out that she doesn’t condone either the students’ illegal presence or their brazen behavior; she has bigger fish to fry like deporting known violent criminals or foreign nationals who could be linked to terrorism.
As proof of the administration’s disregard for immigration law, consider the internal directive Immigration Customs and Enforcement director John Morton issued wherein he advised field agents to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” by granting deferred action or, according to the memo’s exact language, “deciding whom to stop, question, or arrest,” “whom to detain” and to “dismiss” a removal proceeding.
Morton’s memo, issued with the knowledge and approval of the White House, makes clear that millions of deportable illegal and criminal immigrants would be potentially eligible for administrative amnesty if the agents deem them worthy of an exception. Examples of alleged worthiness would be students pursuing higher education or felons convicted only of so-called minor crimes.
My interpretation: The Obama administration will decide which laws it will enforce and which ones it will ignore.
In an effort to curtail this administration’s outrageous abuse of power, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith has introduced his own bill called HALT (Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation). The legislation will block ICE from granting deferred action except in extreme circumstances and also stymie individual amnesties like approving temporary protected status or issuing work authorizations.
In a letter dated June 23 to his House colleagues, Smith wrote: "Because of the Obama administration’s record, it cannot be trusted with these powers [of administrative amnesty].”
Responding to a question asking why ICE doesn’t deport self-confessed aliens, University of California-Irvine associate professor of Chicano Studies Louis DeSipio said that he thought it would be a “public relations disaster”.
But a forceful deportation policy would be viewed as controversial only by illegal immigration activists and the Democratic Party’s hard left wing.
Americans see immigration enforcement as a valuable part of a society that respects the nation’s laws, whether we like or agree with them or not.
The United States cannot condone actions by its president and his administration that allows them in the name of political expediency to decide which of our nation’s laws will be obeyed. Neither the DREAM Act nor HALT will likely pass. But as long as ICE is permitted to pick who will be deported, enforcement will take a back seat.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. His columns about immigration and related social issues have been published since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]