New immigration'enforcement review' raises concerns

May 2, 2014

Any hope for immigration reform before the end of the year seems to be slowly diminishing, as the stalemate on the heated topic continues in the White House. While the Senate was finally able to come to an agreement last June, the House discussions seem to be going nowhere, and President Obama appears to be looking for other reform options, riling 22 senators.

The senators are questioning a new “enforcement review” ordered by President Obama, that reportedly will further limit deportations of individuals in the country illegally.

The senators said that “the changes under consideration would represent a near complete abandonment of basic immigration enforcement and discard the rule of law and the notion that the United States has enforceable borders.”

“The Obama Administration has a trust deficit. Between immigration, marijuana and Obamacare, the selective enforcement of laws is a real hurdle that Congress has a hard time getting over to pass immigration reform without assurances that the border will be secured. Everybody’s time would be better served by working on legal immigration provisions such as ag and high-tech workers where there is broad consensus,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said.

In March, President Obama’s administration began a review of its immigration policy, in search of options other than deportations.

Obama “emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system,” the White House said in a statement after the president’s meeting with Democratic Reps. Ruben Hinojosa (TX), Xavier Becerra (CA) and Luis Gutierrez (IL).

But the senators point out in their letter, that the current laws are in effect, and should be enforced.

“Since 2009, your administration has issued policy directives and memoranda incrementally nullifying immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States—to the point that unless individuals in the country illegally are apprehended, tried, and convicted for a felony or other serious offense, they are free to obtain fraudulent documents and live and work in the country,” they wrote.

“These policies have operated as an effective repeal of duly enacted federal immigration law and exceed the bounds of the executive branch’s prosecutorial discretion…Congress has not passed laws permitting people to illegally enter the country or to ignore their visa expiration dates.”

In their letter, they asked the president to uphold the oath he took to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

“According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own figures, in 2013, nearly all individuals removed from the United States were convicted criminals and recent border crossers. As the Los Angeles Times reported, there has been a 40 percent decline, since 2009, in removals of individuals living and working in the interior of the country. And, recently revealed documents from ICE show that, in 2013, the agency released 68,000 potentially deportable aliens deemed by ICE to pose a criminal threat,” the senators point out.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) sent a letter recently to House Speaker John Boehner, with a slightly different tone than his Republican counter parts, urging an immigration reform vote this year.

“It would be in our country’s national interest, as well as the interest of our party, if this could be achieved,” King wrote to Boehner in the letter.

“Republican policies of self-reliance and family values would have much appeal to immigrants if we take time to articulate them,” King said.

“I fully understand and appreciate the argument that illegal behavior should not be rewarded,” King wrote. “The reality though is that we are not going to deport 11 million immigrants.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack held a conference call last week, sharing that a small group of House Republicans were keeping the immigration reform from moving forward, and that they don’t seem to understand the big picture.

“The reality is that American agriculture is not performing at its maximum due to an inadequate workforce,” Vilsack said.

“The opportunity for immigration reform is now,” Vilsack said. “I am hopeful action will take place in the House.”

The Democratic-led Senate passed immigration bill S. 744 last June that includes increased border security and a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Boehner said he’s still pushing to revamp U.S. immigration law even after mocking fellow Republicans recently for not backing legislation because it’s “too hard.” — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor