Immigration reform is one subject on which President Obama should be cut some slack. The political volatility of the issue and the opposition of border state political leaders and citizens, along with lawmakers at the national level, who want to see the border secured first, make for a daunting political challenge. Yet Obama did promise in the presidential campaign and in a speech in May 2011 to 1,200 people near the Mexican border that he would fight for immigration reform.
Statistically speaking, President Obama has significantly reduced the number of Mexican illegals crossing into the United States from Mexico. His attempts to gain credit for this seem to have fallen largely on deaf ears, as the general belief persists that the U.S. border with Mexico remains very porous.
Whereas the use of greater resources has stemmed the flow of people from south to north, Obama has increased the flow of illegals back to Mexico. About 400,000 illegals were sent back to Mexico in 2009 and about the same number were sent back in 2010. As of now, the number of illegals sent back to Mexico since 2008 exceeds the one million mark.
The Department of Homeland Security continues to deputize police officers to enforce federal immigration laws and the raids on businesses suspected of hiring illegal aliens continues under Obama.
Immigration reform groups particularly fault Obama for not taking care to keep families together when illegal aliens are returned to Mexico. One of the most poignant cartoons I have ever seen shows a mother and a father being driven away in a mini-bus while their two children stand forlorn and bewildered on the roadside.
Another grievance of immigration reform groups is Obama’s failure to get enacted the Dream Act, which would allow children of illegals, but born in the United States, to be treated the same as any other young U.S. citizen when going to a college or a university.
Where Obama has completely fallen down and perhaps worsened a dire situation, is in the detention of illegal aliens. As of early 2010, ICE operated 350 jails without regulations, using only voluntary “standards.” ICE says temporary facilities were used for 84 percent of all book-ins. The lack of a real-time database has created a network of secret jails. People charged with a civil infraction are held in miserable conditions. When someone goes looking for a detained family member or friend, the lack of a real-time database for ICE makes the search maddeningly difficult.
Judges in immigration cases are under such heavy case workloads that due process seems like a cruel joke. Burnout among judges is not an uncommon result in such circumstances.
President Obama did announce a change in immigration policy late in August 2011, whereby the U.S. would deport only those illegals who had committed crimes while in the United States and those who represented a national security risk, a very subjective type of judgment. Obama justified the change in policy as necessary to reduce a 300,000 case backlog in the system.
What Should Obama Do or Have Done
What should be the solution to stop the inflow of illegal aliens into the United States? A bold idea would be to use much of the money now going to border security to form a partnership with the Mexican government to send large numbers of Mexicans now living precariously in urban areas, back to small farms to grow produce for Mexican families. This program would be called the Hands to the Land. To make this plan work, the Mexican market would need to be declared off-limits to U.S. farmers.
As for illegals already in the United States and not in prison or under indictment for a serious crime, two key features of prior legislative efforts should be retained: 1) those illegals must get in the back of the line of those legally here and in the process of gaining citizenship; and 2) they must pay a fine — maybe $2,000 would be appropriate — as a penalty for entering illegally.