GOP senators signal immigration showdown
Seven ask the Department of Homeland Security how much it would cost to deport every illegal immigrant in custody. The White House dismisses the move as political theater, but the issue looms.
By Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau
4:45 PM PDT, October 29, 2010
Reporting from Washington
Signaling another partisan fight over immigration enforcement after next week's midterm election, all seven Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee have signed a letter asking the Department of Homeland Security how much money it needs to deport every illegal immigrant the government encounters.
The request came in an Oct. 21 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and asks her to "detail exactly how much funding" would be needed "to ensure that enforcement of the law occurs consistently for every illegal alien encountered and apprehended." The Republican senators requested a response by Nov. 15.
The Obama administration, which in its first full year in office set a record for deportations by the United States, wants to continue its policy of focusing law enforcement resources on securing the border, bolstering the Border Patrol and deporting dangerous and violent offenders who are in the U.S. illegally. At the same time, Obama supports legislative reforms that would create a path to legal status for longtime residents who meet specific criteria.
Republicans on key oversight committees in Congress favor a more uniform enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, whether the offender crossed the border illegally and committed a violent crime, or was pulled over for speeding after living in the U.S. for years. In an election cycle that has polarized the debate, Republicans in leadership positions have been reluctant to endorse a potential path to legal status for any of the nation's estimated 11 million illegal residents.
An Obama administration official responded that the zero-tolerance approach suggested in the senators' letter is political theater rather than a realistic plan for solving the illegal immigration problem.
"This isn't about doing this job better in the end. This is about scoring political points, which is exactly what's wrong with the immigration debate right now," said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the debate.
The GOP letter came in response to directives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, including an Aug. 20 memo in which Morton requested that U.S. attorneys consider dismissing immigration cases against people who have green card applications pending and are likely to be approved. A subsequent temporary spike in dismissals in Houston, first reported by the Houston Chronicle, caught the attention of Republican lawmakers.
In their letter to Napolitano, the senators say the government is routinely dismissing cases against illegal immigrants who have no felony convictions and "no more than two misdemeanors," and say the practice "raises serious questions about your department's commitment to enforce the immigration laws."
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking GOP member of the Judiciary Committee, is concerned that the Obama administration has dismissed deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants who have committed additional crimes. "The administration's failure to uphold the law is causing it to lose the confidence of the public," Sessions said.
"The best solution to the problem of illegal immigration is to enforce current laws," said Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, who is in line to take over the chairmanship if the GOP regains a majority.
Smith doesn't see immigration reform as a solution to handling immigrants already in the U.S. without legal status. "Attrition through enforcement can reduce the number of illegal immigrants already in the U.S," Smith said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a budget of $5.7 billion, its highest funding in history, and has the capacity to deport about 390,000 people a year, or less than 4% of the people who are in the U.S. illegally. At a rough estimate, deporting 11 million people would cost about $80 billion, said a senior administration official familiar with the ICE budget.
A deportation effort of that magnitude would have a major impact on families, an activist said.
"A very substantial percentage of illegal residents are married to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents," said Paul Donnelly, a longtime activist for immigrant rights who represents American Families United. "Those citizens have rights, legal family rights, that I hope the Congress would respect. It is wrong to tell a U.S. citizen to choose between her family and her country."
The Democratic Party is under pressure to court Latino voters who are frustrated with the lack of movement on an immigration overhaul and could stay home in large numbers on election day. A poll by the Pew Hispanic Center found that 51% of Latinos said they would vote in this election, compared with 70% of the general population.
The Obama administration deported 392,862 people last year, up from the 369,221 people deported two years earlier in the last full year of the Bush administration.
In an interview broadcast Monday on Univision, Obama was pressed to stop the record deportations. Obama said his administration's approach to deporting illegal immigrants "puts less emphasis on families, more emphasis on those with criminal records."
But the only way to achieve true immigration reform is to change the law, Obama said, and to do that, he needs Republican votes in Congress. "I am president; I am not king," he said.
THE LA RAZA DEMS – NO BORDERS WITH NARCOMEX AND NO LEGAL NEED APPLY HERE.
While Obama pushes war over there, he is equally intent on leaving our borders with NARCOMEX undefended, open and ready for business with the Mexican drug cartels.
The Administration's Phantom Immigration Enforcement Policy
According to DHS’s own reports, very little of our nation’s borders (Southwestern or otherwise) are secure, and gaining control is not even a goal of the department.
By Ira Mehlman
Published on 12/07/2009
The setting was not quite the flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln with a “Mission Accomplished” banner as the backdrop, but it was the next best thing. Speaking at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on Nov. 13, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared victory over illegal immigration and announced that the Obama administration is ready to move forward with a mass amnesty for the millions of illegal aliens already living in the United States.
Arguing the Obama administration’s case for amnesty, Napolitano laid out what she described as the “three-legged stool” for immigration reform. As the administration views it, immigration reform must include “a commitment to serious and effective enforcement, improved legal flows for families and workers, and a firm but fair way to deal with those who are already here.”
Acknowledging that a lack of confidence in the government’s ability and commitment to effectively enforce the immigration laws it passes proved to be the Waterloo of previous efforts to gain amnesty for illegal aliens, Napolitano was quick to reassure the American public that those concerns could be put to rest.
“For starters, the security of the Southwest border has been transformed from where it was in 2007,” stated the secretary. Not only is the border locked up tight, she continued, but the situation is well in-hand in the interior of the country as well. “We’ve also shown that the government is serious and strategic in its approach to enforcement by making changes in how we enforce the law in the interior of the country and at worksites…Furthermore, we’ve transformed worksite enforcement to truly address the demand side of illegal immigration.”
If Rep. Joe Wilson had been in attendance to hear Secretary Napolitano’s CAP speech he might well have had a few choice comments to offer. But since he wasn’t, we will have to rely on the Department of Homeland Security’s own data to assess the veracity of Napolitano’s claims.
According to DHS’s own reports, very little of our nation’s borders (Southwestern or otherwise) are secure, and gaining control is not even a goal of the department. DHS claims to have “effective control” over just 894 miles of border. That’s 894 out of 8,607 miles they are charged with protecting. As for the other 7,713 miles? DHS’s stated border security goal for FY 2010 is the same 894 miles.
The administration’s strategic approach to interior and worksite enforcement is just as chimerical as its strategy at the border, unless one considers shuffling paper to be a strategy. DHS data, released November 18, show that administrative arrests of immigration law violators fell by 68 percent between 2008 and 2009. The department also carried out 60 percent fewer arrests for criminal violations of immigration laws, 58 percent fewer criminal indictments, and won 63 percent fewer convictions.
While the official unemployment rate has climbed from 7.6 percent when President Obama took office in January to 10 percent today, the administration’s worksite enforcement strategy has amounted to a bureaucratic game of musical chairs. The administration has all but ended worksite enforcement actions and replaced them with paperwork audits. When the audits determine that illegal aliens are on the payroll, employers are given the opportunity to fire them with little or no adverse consequence to the company, while no action is taken to remove the illegal workers from the country. The illegal workers simply acquire a new set of fraudulent documents and move on to the next employer seeking workers willing to accept substandard wages.
In Janet Napolitano’s alternative reality a mere 10 percent of our borders under “effective control” and sharp declines in arrests and prosecutions of immigration lawbreakers may be construed as confidence builders, but it is hard to imagine that the American public is going to see it that way. If anything, the administration’s record has left the public less confident that promises of future immigration enforcement would be worth the government paper they’re printed on.
As Americans scrutinize the administration’s plans to overhaul immigration policy, they are likely to find little in the “three-legged stool” being offered that they like or trust. The first leg – enforcement – the administration has all but sawed off. The second – increased admissions of extended family members and workers – makes little sense with some 25 million Americans either unemployed or relegated to part-time work. And the third – amnesty for millions of illegal aliens – is anathema to their sense of justice and fair play.
As Americans well know, declaring “Mission Accomplished” and actually accomplishing a mission are two completely different things. When it comes to enforcing immigration laws, the only message the public is receiving from this administration is “Mission Aborted.”
Lou Dobbs Tonight
Monday, September 28, 2009
And T.J. BONNER, president of the National Border Patrol Council, will weigh in on the federal government’s decision to pull nearly 400 agents from the U.S.-Mexican border. As always, Lou will take your calls to discuss the issues that matter most-and to get your thoughts on where America is headed.