The Lawless Immigration Policies of the Obama Administration
Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest
May 19, 2016
Statement of Mark Krikorian
Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies
Deportation is crucial. Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave.
– Barbara Jordan
Not only have total interior deportations collapsed, but even the removal of criminals has declined by more than half, from about 150,000 in 2010 and 2011 to about 63,000 last year — this despite the Obama administration’s claim of prioritizing such removals:
This decline has occurred despite increases in the number of criminal aliens identified by ICE, largely from the nationwide implementation of the Secure Communities program, which screened the fingerprints of aliens arrested by local law enforcement agencies. This successful program, which was tremendously popular with local law enforcement agencies, was dismantled by the president’s November 2014 executive actions, and replaced by the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). ICE removal officers are still alerted to the arrest of criminal aliens by local police, but are prohibited by the White House and subservient ICE political leadership from acting on that information. This collapse in deportations is not because we’ve run out of illegal aliens. After declining in 2007-2009 because of new enforcement efforts at the end of the Bush administration, followed by the recession, the number of illegal aliens has remained essentially constant at between 11 and 12 million. Many of these are new illegal arrivals — we estimate that some 2.5 million new illegal immigrants settled here during the first six years of the Obama administration, offset mainly by departures and legalizations. Nor is the steep drop in deportations due to a lack of resources. Last year the Obama administration re-programmed $113 million that Congress had provided to ICE/ERO for enforcement and gave it to other agencies within DHS. The White House 2017 budget request actually seeks a decrease in funding for immigration enforcement, most notably a decrease of $100 million in funding for detention beds — from 34,000 beds to 30,900 — and a 15 percent decrease in funding for fugitive operations (i.e., the effort to locate the roughly 900,000 people ordered deported who simply ran off). Rather, the collapse in enforcement is a policy choice of the Obama administration. Its strategic vision is, as I described above, to downgrade the immigration law to a secondary status. Among the tactics that serve this strategy, especially with regard to criminals, is the termination of the successful Secure Communities program and its replacement with the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). There are three ways PEP suppresses enforcement:
- The new, more restrictive PEP prioritization scheme exempts a larger number of criminal aliens from deportation. Essentially, under PEP the only aliens ICE officers can target for deportation are people convicted of felonies, multiple “serious” misdemeanors, certain gang members, terrorists, and recent deportees. This exempts large numbers of criminal aliens from deportation.
- PEP imposes new logistical hurdles for ICE, most notably the requirement that an alien be convicted before ICE takes custody — which can enable a criminal alien to abscond from facing charges, or in some cases walk out of a courthouse or jail before ICE is aware that the offender is being released; and
- PEP explicitly allows local governments to impose non-cooperation or sanctuary policies on local law enforcement agencies. In 2014, local sanctuary jurisdictions released more than 10,000 aliens that local ICE field officers were seeking to deport.
* * *Prioritizing enforcement resources is not, in itself, the problem we face in immigration. Applying any body of law requires trade-offs and choices. The Treasury Department, for instance, devotes significant resources to the detection of money-laundering by organized crime or funding for terrorists. But it also has parallel initiatives of routine enforcement, to serve as a deterrent for ordinary taxpayers who might be tempted to cheat. Likewise in traffic enforcement; a driver doing 100 miles per hour through a school zone, firing a gun out the window, will obviously be top priority — but at the same time, there are parallel, routine enforcement efforts — speed traps and the like — to deter ordinary people from endangering others with unsafe driving. If the IRS were to issue memos exempting anyone who’s not a mobster or terrorist from paying taxes, Congress would be aghast. Yet that is precisely what ICE has been ordered to do in the immigration context. Some might object that the anticipated “raids” to take Central American illegal aliens into custody prove that the administration has not relegated immigration law to secondary status. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. The first round of “raids,” in January, netted a whopping 121 people — out of thousands of recent Central American illegal aliens — and only 70 of them were actually deported. Even if this next round of apprehensions is several times larger, it still amounts to nothing more than “enforcement theater.” It’s not even good enforcement theater. These Kabuki raids are too small — microscopic would be more accurate — to change the perception in Central America that if you get into the United States it’s unlikely you’ll ever be required to leave. Despite staged disagreements with the administration over immigration enforcement, Congresswoman Pelosi concisely articulated the view she shares with the White House when she said in 2013 that “Our view of the law is that … if somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not reason for deportation.” This is very different from an earlier Democratic congresswoman, Barbara Jordan, a civil rights pioneer and champion of the rule of law. As head of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, Jordan testified before Congress that “Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave.” Source: Center for Immigration Studies]]>