By Joe Guzzardi
July 1, 2015
President Obama had a good week. First, with the considerable help of the Republican-led Congress, Obama snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on his controversial trade measure. Then, he scored another huge win when the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare. A few days later, the Supreme Court delivered another big triumph to Obama when it legalized same-sex marriage. Finally, Obama’s eulogy in Charleston, South Carolina followed by his rendering of Amazing Grace silenced, at least temporarily, his harshest critics. Some compared Obama’s spiritual moment to John Kennedy’s Ich bin ein Berliner and Ronald Reagan's "Tear down This Wall."
Obama’s supporters hope that his multiple big issue victories cement his legacy. But one win eludes Obama—on immigration, the courts have blocked him and the clock may run out on his second term before he’s able to see his executive action amnesty put into place. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on July 10 in New Orleans to determine whether the preliminary injunction issued by Texas U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen should be upheld. The Department of Justice passed up an opportunity to ask the Supreme Court for an emergency stay on Judge Hanen’s injunction, preferring to take its chances with the Circuit Court.
Although to date Obama has not been able to achieve temporary legal status for unlawful immigrants through the courts, he’s actually put it into effect through his ongoing non-enforcement policies. According to data from the DOJ’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, an estimated 96 percent of Central Americans apprehended illegally entering the U.S. since last summer remain.
More than 77,000 illegal immigrant adults and minors were apprehended and served Notices to Appear between July 18, 2014 and May 26, 2015. Only 3,000 showed up and received removal orders. Nearly 96 percent of cases either received judicial or administrative amnesty, were ordered removed “in absentia,” meaning they didn’t appear, or their cases are pending. About 900 were listed as voluntary departures, although their ultimate status is unclear. Even a removal order is meaningless if immigration officials don’t execute it.
In addition, the Obama administration steadfastly refuses to deport illegal immigrants no matter their criminal histories. Of the 900,000 aliens still in the U.S. with final deportation orders, about 170,000 are convicted criminals. Instead of vowing to toughen its removal practices in light of its shocking failures, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that he will “relax” family detention policies if they have established eligibility for asylum or other amnesties. As always, DHS’s reasoning behind ending long-term detention is that it’s an “inefficient use of our resources and should be discontinued.”
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) stated the obvious when he said that DHS’s decision to release more detained Central American families just as this summer’s border surge is beginning will only encourage more illegal immigration.
Under the current federal practice, aliens including criminals, are released into the general public where they are likely to remain indefinitely. Immigration and Customs Enforcement interior enforcement has steadily declined during the Obama administration, and is now virtually non-existent. Former assistant ICE director John Sandweg said that aliens’ chances of removal are next to zero.
Many think that Obama’s dismantling of immigration laws may define his legacy more than his successes on trade, Obamacare or same-sex marriage. Ignoring the Constitution and ending American sovereignty through executive fiat represent dark moments in U.S. history that will live on long after Obama leaves office.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]