By Joe Guzzardi
February 24, 2016
Reasonable people wonder what President Obama’s immigration end game is. Based on recent congressional testimony and investigative reporting, critics have concluded that he appears determined, in the last months of his presidency, to not only keep the southern border with Mexico wide open, but to also callously put Americans in harm’s way.
Congressional testimony shows the latest shameful details surrounding the ongoing Central American border surge saga, now entering its third year. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, legislators learned that the number of unaccompanied minors is expected to reach record numbers in 2016 while deportations of those same minors is in sharp decline. The combination of more minors arriving as fewer leave puts inordinate strain on schools, hospitals, and social service providers as they struggle to keep up.
The Judiciary hearing came on the heels of a Government Accountability Office report that condemned the administration and specifically Health and Human Services for having lost track of children, many of whom have been released to unvetted individuals. HHS’s negligence has led to tragedies like the one at an Ohio egg farm where ten Guatemalan children toiled in slavery-like conditions. Three of four defendants, at least one of which is an illegal alien, pled guilty to charges that include labor conspiracy, forced labor and harboring; the fourth is awaiting trial. The Ohio farm is one of several incidents where HHS has failed to follow up after the children have been released: federal officials track only 2.2 percent of cases after the minors have been turned over to their sponsors.
Since the minors are not immigration enforcement priorities, the administration doesn’t pursue them when they fail to appear at their assigned court dates. Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) charged HHS with willful negligence that has let children fall off the grid as the agency “wiped its hands clean” after assigning minors to sponsors that may be unqualified, or worse.
Thomas Hopman, a ranking Immigration and Customs Enforcement removal official, admitted that more vigorous deportation action would deter now out-of-control illegal entry. The Obama administration has deported only 4,680 of more than 127,000 minors apprehended on the border during the past two-and-a-half years.
In another shocking development last year nearly 90,000 deportable illegal immigrants that Immigration and Customs Enforcement identified as “criminal threats” were released from custody, 60 percent of the total so designated. As of March 2015 more than 347,000 convicted criminal immigrants remained at large. And as of September 2015, 918,369 illegal immigrants with final orders of deportation have settled in communities across the U.S. A nationwide survey of irate local sheriffs who want to do their jobs, but are thwarted by federal regulations, found that only about 35 percent of illegal immigrants held in their jails, but then released, ever end up in ICE custody.
Americans are in stunned disbelief. The White House has consistently gutted law enforcement through policies like prosecutorial discretion and deferred action. ICE and other federal law officers have unsuccessfully sued their superiors on the grounds that the administration has forced them to violate their oaths to uphold the law.
A new Senate bill, S. 2538, has been introduced that would support ICE agents efforts to remove criminal aliens and to prevent illegal entry at the border. Even though it’s likely not going anywhere in this election year, the hope is that it will be re-introduced, assuming that, unlike the sitting chief executive, the next president will actually support immigration law enforcement.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]