As widely noted, President Barack Obama has comprehensive immigration reform on his 2010 legislative agenda. Given the policy changes made during his first nine months, it is clear that President Obama sees reform through the prism of perceived Hispanic votes and union payback.
First, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano changed the worksite raid policy of deporting illegal immigrants caught during raids to giving those illegals temporary work permits to cooperate with DHS. Beyond the legal weakness in buying cooperation, does anyone really believe that the illegals released with work permits will hang around and face deportation once the case is resolved? The history of the “catch and release” program — ended by President George W. Bush in 2005 — unequivocally demonstrates that illegals will move to another city or state and resume their illegal activities. By effectively ending the “detention and removal” policy, Secretary Napolitano has only put back in place one of the incentives illegals had in coming to America; namely, an all bark and no bite enforcement regime.
Next, Secretary Napolitano added onerous new requirements to the Section 287(g) program that is used by state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law. The new requirements place unnecessary handcuffs on state and local law enforcement and make the attractiveness of the Section 287(g) program far less so. Instead of having the guts to kill the program outright, the Obama Administration will kill it by removing the utility of it for state and local law enforcement. By removing another disincentive to illegal coming to America, the Obama Administration is sending a strong message to those contemplating coming here illegally that once they get across the border, they are a free as a bird.
Then, in its discussion with interested groups on immigration, the Obama Administration held a one-sided conversation with only groups who support granting amnesty to the 12 million illegals currently in America. Despite being one of the nation’s top thought leaders on the issue of immigration, no one from Heritage or any of the other groups who oppose amnesty received invites to the White House gathering. So much for bipartisanship and Obama’s alleged interest in hearing from both sides of the debate.
Finally, we now learn that the pro-illegal immigrant Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, is making it even harder for agricultural employers to use existing legal visa programs to hire workers. Secretary Solis wants to require higher pay and add additional steps for employers to show that they could not find Americans for the jobs. While we agree that American jobs should first go to Americans and those already here legally, the current policy that required employers to attest that they had searched for qualified Americans hasn’t been shown to be ineffective. Unions, not surprisingly, support these changes. Instead of reducing the avenue for legal migration, the Obama Administration should be expanding the legal avenues for those who want to come to America to work.
All of these policy changes clearly signal that immigration reform under the Obama Administration means amnesty, fewer visa users, and a return to a set of incentives that encourage those thinking of coming to America illegally to cross the border or overstay their visa. This means we will be debating whether to give the next 12 million illegals amnesty in twenty years just as we are twenty years after the 1986 amnesty. For real reform, see out report “Controlling Illegal Immigration: State and Local Government Must Do More.”