According to an article in the New York Times on Wednesday, the Obama administration is giving in to demands from Democratic lawmakers and Latino and immigrant groups to slow the deportations of illegal aliens who have not been convicted of crimes. The new policy is described by the Times as an “about-face” by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security charged with enforcing U.S. immigration laws within U.S. borders.
ICE is now offering to provide illegal aliens facing deportation, but who do not have criminal records, with “provisional authorization for them to remain here and work legally.” But advocates for illegal aliens complain that the new policy is being applied unevenly across the U.S., and that “rank and file within ICE” need to be reminded of administration policy “discouraging going after cases that are not within its priorities.” Evidently some ICE officers are still trying to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.
The Obama administration is taking this action despite Congressional rejection of its call for an amnesty for illegal aliens, which it calls “comprehensive immigration reform.” Congress has also blocked the attempt to enact a piecemeal amnesty starting with the so-called DREAM Act for illegal aliens who arrived as children. Because of Congressional opposition, such so-called “immigration reform” legislation has no chance of passage in either house of the current Congress.
What Congress has enacted are immigration laws designed to limit legal immigration to about 1 million legal immigrants every year. Those laws give us the most generous legal immigration system in the world, admitting more legal immigrants to permanent residence with a clear path to full citizenship, than all the rest of the nations of the world combined. And we get to pick and choose the immigrants we want, mainly those with family connections here, or those having job skills needed here.
Enforcing those immigration laws is both difficult and expensive. But it becomes impossible if the executive branch refuses to enforce them. Non-enforcement lowers the costs to illegal aliens of violating U.S. immigration laws, and increases the benefits to the extent that it allows illegal aliens to remain and work in the U.S. That encourages even more illegal aliens to violate U.S. immigration laws.
Non-enforcement of U.S. immigration laws imposes enormous costs on state and local governments for education, health care, and law enforcement. And non-enforcement results in anger and hostility towards the federal government and initiatives by states to themselves enforce U.S. immigration law, like Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration statute S.B. 1070.
At a time when millions of Americans are looking for work, when funding for schools and colleges is being cut, when the U.S. is trying to reduce its dependence on imported oil and on the burning of fossil fuels generally, does it make sense to stop enforcing U.S. immigration laws, encouraging even more illegal immigration?