By Joe Guzzardi
May 23, 2016
Last week, the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest held a hearing on the scandalous relationship between the declining number of deported illegal immigrants and the increasing number of criminal aliens the Obama administration has released. The hearing took direct aim at Obama’s Priority Enforcement Plan (PEP) which promised to focus removal on the on the most violent criminals while giving a free pass to non-criminal aliens, the type former Immigration Customs and Enforcement Director John Morton called “run-of-the-mill.”
But instead of prioritization, and despite increased congressional enforcement funding in each successive year during Obama’s two terms, deportations have plummeted, particularly from the interior, and especially among criminals. In the last three years, ICE has released 86,288 criminal aliens, some who had already been ordered removed.
PEP, an Obama 2014 executive action, enables criminal aliens to avoid enforcement for three main reasons: 1) it specifically exempts a larger number from deportation like those previously deported, or convicted of identity theft or immigration fraud, 2) it requires that an alien be convicted before ICE takes custody, and 3) it explicitly allows local governments to impose non-cooperation or sanctuary policies on local law enforcement agencies. These three elements make it harder to remove criminal aliens, and easier for them to be released back into the general population where they can commit new crimes.
But PEP is not the only cause of declining enforcement. In his testimony to the committee, Thomas Homan, the ICE Executive Associate Director for Enforcement and Removal Operations cited other factors including earlier Obama executive actions. In 2012, ICE issued a policy that eliminated level three misdemeanors as cause for deportation. And two more Obama executive actions, the 2012 deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) and the 2014 deferred action for parents of citizens and legal permanent residents (DAPA), encouraged more illegal immigration. The newly arrived migrants become virtually impossible to deport. Homan confirmed to Sessions that ICE ignores daily phone calls nationwide from police officers in non-sanctuary cities who ask for help deporting criminal detainees.
Border Patrol Union President Brandon Judd provided more damning testimony about the Obama administration’s immigration policies. Judd told the committee that his agents release most every illegal alien they encounter, so called “catch and release” program—even if that person has a criminal history. According to Judd, every non-Mexican is released, and 80 percent of Mexicans are also set free.
While most of the immigration-related attention in recent weeks has been on the Supreme Court’s April review of DAPA, these other ongoing federal enforcement violations, now politicized in the heat of a presidential campaign, compound and accelerate the nation’s illegal immigration crisis. Sanctuary and non-cooperation with immigration authorities violates 8 USC 1373 which prohibits state and local governments from restricting communication with federal authorities, and 8 USC 1324 which bars any person from shielding deportable aliens from detection.
Obama’s critics struggle to make sense of his refusal to carry out the immigration laws Congress has passed and that the Constitution obliges him to faithfully execute. Since Obama is not a candidate for re-election, his disregard for the law can’t be construed as a ploy for votes. Many interpret his eight years of consistent gutting of immigration law as representing disdain for the historic American nation’s future.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]
By Joe Guzzardi