SAN DIEGO – President Barack Obama and his administration still play games with the immigration issue – and, consequently, with people’s lives.
When handling this thorny subject, the top priority for politicians in both parties is to do no harm – to themselves. They can be compassionate, but they also need to be tough.
That’s why, every so often, we’re told that the administration is rounding up “criminal aliens.” Recently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement wrapped up “Operation Cross Check,” which resulted in the arrests of 2,059 convicted criminals from 94 countries. More than 1,000 of those arrested had felony convictions, and the administration wants to make sure we know that the crimes included “manslaughter, child pornography, robbery, kidnapping and rape.” We’re not supposed to dwell on the fact that, under current U.S. code, re-entering the country after being deported is also a felony.
Don’t be alarmed. But under that definition, your nanny could be a felon.
If a president gets backed into a corner by supporters and must propose a big idea – like promising to take executive actions to give temporary deportation reprieves to millions of people – the best-case scenario is that the details are so flawed as to be struck down by a judge so the idea never comes to fruition. That way, the president gets credit from supporters for trying but he doesn’t get blamed by those who advocate a tougher stance, like giving illegal immigrants a one-way bus ticket home.
The left’s new bogeyman is U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen, who last month blocked Obama’s executive actions to temporarily spare some undocumented immigrants from being deported. The administration requested that Hanen issue a stay of his own order by this week, but the judge ignored the deadline. The legal standoff continues, and higher courts are likely to eventually weigh in.
The administration’s bob-and-weave strategy has worked remarkably well so far. And it sure beats having to lead.
The strategy boils down to this: trading words for actions, creating mass confusion to skirt accountability, pretending to curb deportations while continuing to remove people, advancing the myth that only criminals are being removed, pretending that rogue ICE agents have decided on their own to keep removing illegal immigrants without the approval of higher-ups, covering up mistreatment of detainees including children, setting traps for Republicans by convincing them that you’re giving immigration reform advocates everything when you’re giving them little, and letting the GOP implode as it descends into fear, hatred and racism just in time for the 2016 presidential election.
The latest Republican to take that trip is Mike Huckabee, who recently appeared to compare immigrants to dogs. At the Iowa Agricultural Summit, the possible 2016 presidential hopeful asked: “What do we do to stem the tide of people who are rushing over because they’ve heard that there’s a bowl of food just across the border?”
So while some suggest that immigration is best for mankind, Huckabee settles for likening immigrants to man’s best friend. Note to the White House: Be sure to send Huckabee a thank-you card. He just did you a favor.
And so on this issue, everyone is fooled. Lefties think that Obama is a good person trying to do the right thing. Righties think he’s a bad president doing the wrong thing. In truth, when it comes to immigration, he’s an expert con man who is not doing much of anything.
The media help out by being gullible because they want to believe the best about the president they helped elect and re-elect. During a recent town hall meeting in Miami with MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart, Obama promised “consequences” for ICE personnel who ignore his directive to be more lenient on deportations. Instead of posing for pictures with Obama after the event, Diaz-Balart should have asked the president: “Since many of these law enforcement personnel have civil service protection, what can you do to discipline them? And does the fact that you want these agents to ease up on the undocumented mean that you now want them to ignore earlier administration quotas to round them up?” But if Diaz-Balart had asked tough questions, and then asked for a photo, the president’s handlers would have said: “No way, Jose.”
And to think that, when Obama first ran for president, many in the immigration reform community believed that – since his father was foreign-born – he would have a special place in his heart for immigrants. If he does, he hides it awfully well.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is email@example.com.