President Obama's Administrative Amnesties Have a Long History

By Stanley Renshon on August 27, 2013

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has warned those interested in immigration reform that if Congress does nothing, the president will be tempted to accomplish by executive action what he was not able to accomplish by signing the Senate's immigration legislation. As the senator put it, "I believe that this president will be tempted, will be tempted, if nothing happens in Congress, to issue an executive order as he did for the Dream Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen."

Dubbed "Plan B" by the National Journal, "The idea behind the 'other track' is to freeze the current undocumented population in place through an administrative order, give them work permits, and hope for a better deal under the next president, with the hope that he or she is a Democrat."

It is easy to see Plan B has the direct progeny of the president's sweeping administrative initiative (DACA) granting temporary legality to those illegal aliens who came here as children. That was a dramatic public act, and meant to be one. As such it received a great deal of notice and controversy.

Less noticed and therefore less controversial, is the fact that long before DACA, the administration has been steadily narrowing the basis by which it enforces the country's immigration laws, some of which is detailed here.

In additional to those initiatives, the administration, through a series of enforcement memos to ICE staff -- here (August 20, 2010), here (March 2, 2011), here (August 18, 2011), here (June 17, 2011), here (June 17, 2011), here (November 17, 2011), and here (December 21, 2012) -- the administration has gradually, but determinedly created large classes of illegal aliens who are essentially able to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

The public rational for all of these memos that narrow the focus of enforcement is the claim by now former Director John Morton that, ICE "only has resources to remove approximately 400,000 aliens per year, less than 4 percent of the estimated illegal alien population in the United States." Therefore, setting priorities and narrowing enforcement efforts is necessary.

I've never seen an explanation of what resources exactly go into that 400,000 per year resource limit. Nor have I seen a request from the ICE director, or the president, asking for enough resources to carry out the deportation of more than that limiting figure.

The memos noted above almost all carry the disclaimer that, "nothing in this memorandum should be construed to prohibit the apprehension, detention, or removal of any alien unlawfully in the United States or to limit the legal authority of ICE or any of its personnel to enforce federal immigration law."

Okay. But when memo after memo, directive after directive, enforcement actions or the lack thereof, all point in the same direction, we can be fairly certain that immigration enforcement decisions are being made and carried out at the very highest level of the Obama administration for a purpose, and it isn't to save the government money.

Next: An Unspoken Immigration Truth: What’s NOT Broken