Ruben Navarrette: The immigration shell game

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 4, 2014 - 12:00 am

SAN DIEGO – There was more hocus-pocus recently from the White House on the immigration issue.

An overhaul of deportation policies that was due to be unveiled by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in the next several days has been postponed until the end of summer.

That is, if it happens at all. The whole idea of these stall tactics is to get a hot issue off the front page and move on to other issues. Instead of leadership from the White House, we get more games and magic tricks. Deportation overhaul? What overhaul? Now you see it, now you don’t.

In all likelihood, the administration is never going to reverse course on deportations. Once a chief executive does what President Barack Obama has done – i.e., turn up the deportation machine full blast – it’s nearly impossible to shut it down. Government agencies almost never shrink; it’s their nature to grow.

That’s why a president should never use deportations to advance political goals. Obama has always seen the idea of removing illegal immigrants as a logical way of protecting blue-collar workers who support the Democratic Party, while inoculating himself against the accusation from Republicans that he’s soft on border security and illegal immigration. The basic political calculus hasn’t changed.

Now that Obama only has about 950 days left in office, his immigration reform plan seems to be for him to look busy while doing nothing, pretend to care about the undocumented when he never has, appear to want more of them to stay while continuing to deport record numbers, and use the issue to hurt Republicans with Latinos while being careful not to push so hard that he achieves an “amnesty” that hurts Democrats with non-Latinos.

Let’s assess the damage: two million deportations in five years; hundreds of thousands of divided families; thousands of U.S.-born children dumped into foster care; allegations of physical and sexual abuse in immigration detention facilities; claims by immigration attorneys that the deported include hundreds of unaccompanied minors; and countless broken promises to make things better from a president who made things worse.

Obama also never misses an opportunity to toy with the “dreamers,” those undocumented students brought here as children. They always get cast as Charlie Brown while Obama plays Lucy with the football. The president promised hope and change, and he gave it to these young people. He raised their hopes that he would ease up on enforcement, and then he changed his mind.

Several weeks ago, it was announced that Obama had instructed Johnson to review deportation policies and make changes. Media observers speculated that there might be an overhaul of Secure Communities – the program that has local police enforcing immigration law and that the Obama administration expanded to more than 1,000 jurisdictions.

Others suggested that there might even be an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows undocumented students to avoid deportation for two years and apply for work permits and let the parents of those students remain in the United States.

Supposedly, the review was delayed because a handful of liberal advocacy groups asked Obama to hold off on any changes until the end of August so that House Republicans could have one last chance to do what they have consistently refused to do since they took power in January 2011: pass an immigration bill.

What nonsense. The groups’ “request” was really intended to give Obama a fig leaf to do what he wanted to do anyway: avoid dealing with the issue before the midterm elections.

This whole scheme started in the Senate. It has been reported that top Senate Democrats urged immigration advocates at a recent strategy session to stop criticizing the White House and turn up the pressure on House Republicans. But a well-informed source who met with Senate staffers after that meeting tells me that it was Democratic senators who urged advocates to ask for the delay.

Why do that? Simple. Because the last thing Democrats want is a softening of deportation policies just before the elections. They fear it would hurt them at the polls.

Excuse me. Aside from the political maneuvers, does anyone remember why we’re here?

There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States that no one cares about or knows what to do with. Least of all, it seems, our elected officials.


Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

Read more articles by Ruben Navarrette



Sacramento Bee Job listing powered by Careerbuilder.com
Quick Job Search
Sacramento Bee Jobs »
Buy
Used Cars
Dealer and private-party ads
Make:

Model:

Price Range:
to
Search within:
miles of ZIP

Advanced Search | 1982 & Older

TODAY'S CIRCULARS