Dan Gilmore / Jun. 12, 2015

Obama Puts Immigration Enforcement in Limbo

Immigrant Heritage Month prompts a check-up on enforcement.

For his weekly address last Saturday, Barack Obama touted our nation’s immigrant heritage because June is Immigrant Heritage Month. Naturally, he used it as a platform to advocate for his progressive approach to immigration reform.

“We’re a nation of immigrants,” Obama said. “It’s a source of our strength and something we all can take pride in. … Of course, we can’t just celebrate this heritage, we have to defend it — by fixing our broken immigration system.”

Indeed, everyone agrees that the current immigration system is far from perfect. But Obama’s “fixes” have eroded the enforcement of immigration laws. In this vacuum, Republicans should arrive ready to provide a solution that promotes Liberty.

By his telling, Obama’s November executive action halting the deportation of five million non-citizens was a wild success, a legacy for his future presidential library in Chicago. “Last fall,” he said, “I took action to provide more resources for border security; focus enforcement on the real threats to our security; modernize the legal immigration system for workers, employers, and students; and bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can get right with the law.”

In fact, however, the Obama administration has finally bowed to reality. Twenty-six states led by Texas moved to block the executive’s best laid plans by filing suit, arguing that the executive action harmed the states. Despite an injunction halting the immigration action, the Obama administration continued to implement the law, issuing directives to the Department of Homeland Security that went beyond prosecutorial discretion, directing agencies as to who they could and could not detain.

Obama tried to circumvent the judicial system, and he was slapped on the wrist. DHS planned to hire about 3,100 additional employees to deal with the changes to immigration policy and leased an 11-story building in Arlington to house those employees. Now, the building sits empty, with most activities suspended until the law executive action is hashed out through the courts.

For the last few months, the Obama administration has tended toward inaction on immigration — though it’s unknown what he’s doing behind closed doors. DHS wanted to prioritize deportations, only sending back the rapists, the murderers — the worst of the worst. But the Center for Immigration Studies reports the nation’s law enforcement agencies have merely been playing catch and release, as there are 32% fewer arrests of criminal non-citizens as there were last year around this time. It’s another clear sign that the Obama administration has not upheld its duty to faithfully discharge the laws of the land.

“Aliens who are released on bond typically are not subject to any form of supervision,” CIS Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan writes. “Most of them will join the approximately 904,000 aliens who have been ordered removed (often in absentia), but who have not left. Of these, 167,527 are convicted criminals.”

We’ll know in the near future exactly how DHS responds to the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court’s order to cease implementing Obama’s orders, though Obama said he would continue to fight for his immigration reform. Meanwhile, it’s Immigrant Heritage Month and conservatives need to ensure immigrants hear the message of Liberty. Republicans are divided on immigration, as older voters favor a Rule-of-Law stance, while younger ones tend to favor a more moderate path to citizenship. At the very least, it shows the Republican Party in 2035 will be different than the one today, and that conservatism needs to discover what it values.

Here are some guiding principles for that conversation: First, we’re a nation of immigrants, but that doesn’t mean we should embrace hyphenated Americanism. And second, we need to reform immigration, but that must be decided by Rule of Law, not executive fiat. That, in turn, is informed by whether we view immigrants as moochers who want to leech off our welfare and public schools, or as fellow lovers of Liberty and valuable additions to America. How do we balance the fact that both of those things can be accurate?

Obama is clearly exploiting the immigration issue in order create a huge new Democrat voting bloc. But that shouldn’t supersede our order of government and the laws that protect our rights as citizens.

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