The administration snuck a couple of immigration-related policy actions past the public this weekend. (Weekend news items, the media-wise tell us, are less likely to garner attention, and therefore outrage.)
The first item, reported by the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, involved the decision to permit aliens applying for resident status on the basis of kinship with United States citizens to remain in the United States while awaiting the adjudication of their papers. As the story notes, "Currently, such immigrants must leave the country to apply for a legal visa, often leading to long stints away as they await resolution of their applications." True … and there is a reason for that. Congress amended the immigration laws to require that departure as a way of minimizing frauds, reducing illegal employment, and — not least — because that way, if the request is denied, the previously illegal alien is already out of the country, eliminating the need to spend taxpayer money (your money) finding, apprehending, and removing him or her. In a fell swoop, using executive powers in lieu of introducing legislation he knows won't pass, the president has vitiated congressional intent.
According to the Times, federal immigration officials responded to criticism from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, by saying that the revision affects only how the applications are processed, not whether the legal status ultimately is granted. "'I don't think that criticism is warranted at all', said Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 'What we are doing is reducing the time of separation, not changing the standard of obtaining a waiver.'" Spoken like a true bureaucrat, and disingenuous in the extreme. In recent months, the DHS Inspector General's Office has issued reports, and testified before Congress, alleging politicization of the adjudication-making process at the agency; and their own ombudsman's recommendations for change are all but ignored. See Center for Immigration Studies Fellow David North's blogs here, here, and here for some specific examples.
The Times article also cites Republican strategist Javier Ortiz as saying that the "proposal being announced in an election year has a whiff of political calculation." Yes, I have to agree: in the same way that a three-day old dead fish has a whiff of taint about it, I'd say.
The second action involved continuation and expansion of the administration's ongoing attempt to jettison thousands of pending deportation cases from the immigration courts. Univision tells us that those courts in four major cities with heavy workloads (Detroit, New Orleans, Orlando, and Seattle) are temporarily shutting down while government prosecutors (trial attorneys who work for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)) go through the process of deciding which cases to flush.
Speaking to the Orlando Sentinel, private immigration attorney David Stoller said, "That's not a lot of cases to trim out of the logs. If you're taking about 10 or 15 percent off the top, what are you really doing?" Do you actually believe that, Mr. Stoller? Honestly? What if the local criminal courts arbitrarily dismissed 10 or 15 percent of the cases from their docket? Would you be comfortable with that? I doubt it.
The administration would have us believe that this latest expansion in pursuit of "prosecutorial discretion" is intended to focus limited resources on dangerous criminals. The problem with that assertion is that the government has been what many would call generous in deciding which criminals are sufficiently docile (my words, not theirs) that their cases, too, can be closed along with the thousands of others shoved out of the system despite the time and resources that were spent catching those people and putting them into the system to begin with.
Furthermore, the government has been its own worst enemy in promoting those programs within ICE that truly do some good in identifying criminal aliens and removing them from the country. It has put the popular and effective 287(g) program into virtual suspended animation (see here and here) and has so botched the rollout of its Secure Communities biometric program that for nearly two years state and local governments at all levels were totally confused about whether or not participation was voluntary, and some states continue to actively resist. (See here and here.)
So please, spare us the cynical media spin about the latest attempts to eviscerate immigration enforcement in the United States while opening the doors to mass illegal migration. The American public just isn't that stupid.
Memo from Uncle Sam to aliens whose cases are dismissed: "Beat it. Don't call us, we'll call you … if your case is approved. (It probably will be. We've got that under control now.) But if not, don't worry, be happy. We won't come looking for you. Better yet, get a job. You won't need to look over your shoulder at your place of employment. We're out of that business too."