Everything about the recent decision by the White House to just stop deporting illegal immigrants reinforces the conclusion that the Administration has adopted exactly the wrong policy. This will not help solve the problem of America’s deeply flawed immigration policies and broken borders.
I received a form email today from Stephanie Valencia, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, informing me that “President Obama is deeply committed to fixing our immigration laws and has been aggressively searching for partners in Congress who are willing to work with him to pass a new law.” Apparently the President has demonstrated his sincerity, because the “under the President’s direction, for the first time ever the Department of Homeland Security has prioritized the removal of people who have been convicted of crimes in the United States.”
This proclamation undoubtedly referred to what The Wall Street Journal reported as “a surprise announcement, the Obama administration said it will review the deportation cases of 300,000 illegal immigrants and might allow many of them to stay in the U.S.”
It is difficult to imagine how the President believes he is going to find “partners in Congress” by refusing to enforce immigration law against the majority of those who are in violation of the law.
For starters, the Administration’s claim that it is the “first” to prioritize deportation of aliens who have committed felonies and violent crimes will come as huge surprise to just about every President since Ronald Reagan. In fact, I can’t think of any Administration that claimed it would not make deporting convicted rapists and the like its first priority.
Next, the President’s announcement sidesteps an obvious point—anyone who has violated U.S. immigration laws has already committed a crime.
The President’s “strategy” for enforcing immigration law, by only going after really “bad people,” also flies in the face of established practices of how to create a culture of compliance with the rule of law. Social scientists James Wilson and George Kelling introduced the “broken windows theory” nearly three decades ago. Its premise was simple: By enforcing “petty” laws, police can help create a well-ordered environment that discourages more serious crime. That theory holds just as well for immigration as it does for other crimes.
Finally, the gravest injustice is that strategy will encourage more illegal immigration—actually putting more immigrants at risk for a range of horrible fates, from rape and slavery to dying in the desert, to get here and qualify for Obama’s golden ticket. These facts are laid out in the Heritage paper “The Human Tragedy of Illegal Immigration.”
This is a broken-windows problem if ever there was one. No reasonable person expects the government to deport 11 million people. But it is reasonable to expect the government to make a good-faith effort to enforce the law and secure the border. There are responsible ways to address the issues of immigration and border security to everyone’s benefit, including would-be immigrants. The President, however, has chosen a different course.
Rather than attempt to solve a problem, the President waited for Congress and everyone else to leave town before announcing an initiative designed primarily to pander to those who do not care whether U.S. immigration laws were ever enforced. It is sad act to make on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11. Our government promised to restore the security of our borders. Now, it is actively working to undermine that promise.