One of the first acts of the Obama administration's new ICE Director, John Sandweg, was to expand the president's amnesty-by-executive fiat beyond the so-called DREAMers to cover also illegal aliens who are parents or caretakers of children — anybody's children, anywhere, of any immigration status. Like the other decreed amnesties, this directive issued on August 23, is so broadly written that it could cover potentially millions of illegal aliens. It is the next step in the gradual dismantling of enforcement, and perhaps signals a White House understanding that it probably cannot get the mass legalization it seeks the old-fashioned constitutional way, through Congress, and that instead it must resort to the more familiar method of executive action.
The new directive is innocuously entitled "Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities". I would call it "How to Shoehorn Amnesty for Millions of Illegal Aliens Under the Guise of Protecting Families". In the same way that we are expected to believe that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was intended to benefit only bright young achievers who were brought here as young children (and no doubt there were some who met that description), this initiative is set up to sound like it will benefit only those illegal alien families who have been left begging on the street corner because a mean ICE agent took their daddy away for driving them to chemotherapy with a cracked taillight.
Just like there were no illegal alien students in ICE custody before DACA, there are no illegal aliens who will lose their family because of cruel ICE agents and unnecessarily harsh enforcement. This directive is a pretextual and thinly veiled order to ICE agents not to arrest, charge, process, look at, or otherwise bother illegal aliens who claim to take care of someone.
Here's who qualifies:
1) primary caretakers of minor children, without regard to the dependent's citizenship; 2) parents and legal guardians who have a direct interest in a family court proceeding involving child welfare proceedings in the United States and; 3) parents or legal guardians whose minor children are U.S. citizens (USCs) or lawful permanent residents (LPRs).
There are several pages devoted to spelling out how ICE field office personnel must make sure that detained aliens are allowed to attend family court proceedings and have their children visit them in detention. All well and good for the very few detained aliens who find themselves in that difficult predicament. But as with DACA, because the policy is so open-ended, the result will be that anyone claiming to be a caregiver will be immune from enforcement. Advocacy groups have blasted out the memo, and we can be sure that the law school clinics are ready to pounce.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 47 percent of illegal immigrant households have children, so this directive covers quite a few people — probably several million. And it says "caretakers", not just parents. I can imagine that there will be quite a few beloved illegal alien nannies and home health aides whose advocates will be spinning tales of hardship to forestall deportation proceedings and detention.
However, it is important to remember that because ICE currently targets only criminals and repeat immigration offenders through programs conducted in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, especially jails, most of the illegal aliens who will get a free pass will be those who came into contact with ICE because they were arrested for criminal conduct; in other words, criminals who happen to be parents.
People like Amado Espinoza-Ramirez, an illegal alien arrested in Chicago in late 2011 and charged with 42 counts of child molestation, including incestuous rape of a child. After his arrest, ICE took custody of Espinoza-Ramirez. But because he had not yet been convicted and was the parent of a U.S. citizen child, ICE released him on an electronic monitoring bracelet. Like so many other beneficiaries of the Obama administration's "smarter, more effective immigration enforcement policies", Espinoza-Ramirez skipped out on his hearings and hasn't been seen since. Because he is now a fugitive, he was never convicted, but may still be living here as a low priority "non-criminal immigration violator" with parental rights, free to molest his family and others.
Yes, immigration detention, like any form of incarceration, can separate parents from their children. We should feel sorry for the children and ICE should have policies that try to minimize unnecessary hardship. But the answer is not a blanket amnesty for millions of immigrant parents and caretakers who made unlawful choices. Criminals shouldn't be treated differently just because they are parents. And if people see that we are serious about enforcing our immigration laws, then they may be less tempted to violate them and risk separation from their families.