Obama’s Controversial Two-Step Moves in Direction of Immigration Reform

Photo by Callie Shell from Time magazine.

Photo by Callie Shell from Time magazine.

After boosting border enforcement, the Obama Administration recently announced that it will also increase funding for a troublesome program started by George W. Bush. The controversial program gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unregulated access to the immigration information of every person in local prisons across the United States. Although Obama may be sending mixed signals as he paves a road to immigration reform-signals that frustrates many of his most steadfast supporters-he also understands that he must smooth the way for immigration reform by restoring the confidence of the American public and prove that the government is capable of upholding the rule of law.

Immigration enforcement is fundamentally a federal responsibility, but state and local governments can and should play a role in helping the federal government remove violent criminals from American society. Obama’s focus on catching hardened criminals represents the right prioritization of resources that are being funneled in the wrong direction. Rather than addressing the serious problems associated with the Bush Administration’s “Secure Communities” program, Obama’s 2010 budget, which allots $200 million for the program, seeks to expand rather than mend the deeply flawed initiative.

In an ideal world, Secure Communities would catch and deport undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes, rather than those who otherwise abide by the law. However, the terminal imperfections of the program are outlined by The National Immigration Law Center (NILC):

“Secure Communities has a deceptively benign appearance because of its name and purported focus on criminals. But the program applies to immigrants regardless of guilt or innocence, how or why they were arrested, and whether or not their arrests were based on racial or ethnic profiling or were just a pretext for checking immigration status.”

Without comprehensive immigration reform, the expansion of the Secure Communities program is essentially a slower and a more potentially devastating manifestation of “attrition through enforcement.” Effective and meaningful oversight, resources, and implementation of the program are necessary to ensure that harmless immigrants don’t languish in jail. Until comprehensive immigration reform is passed, it’s unlikely that the needed infrastructure for Secure Communities will be in place.

Yet, Obama’s pro-migrant critics shouldn’t lose hope. While some may see his decisions as moving two steps forward and one or more steps back, the Obama administration sees its actions as necessary when it comes to making a strong case for comprehensive immigration legislation in the near future. The White House agenda is on track with what Obama announced last month:

“If the American people don’t feel like you can secure the borders, then it’s hard to strike a deal that would get people out of the shadows and on a pathway to citizenship who are already here…The attitude of the average American is going to be, well, you’re just going to have hundreds of thousands of more coming in each year.”

The media has started equating Obama’s actions with back-tracking, progressives are questioning the integrity of his agenda, and hard-line immigration activists are questioning his loyalty. Yet, for once, it might make sense to take heed to anti-immigrant advocates who are approaching Obama with deep suspicion. Mark Krikorian, an avid restrictionist, crudely proclaims that the move is “obviously intended to strengthen the administration’s hand in making the political case” for a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, something that anti-immigrant advocates persistently misrepresent as mere “amnesty.”

Restrictionists are counting on the failure of the Administration’s tactics. Obama’s political calculations concerning comprehensive immigration reform may be costly and controversial, but to abandon a President who has repeatedly stated his commitment to fixing our immigration system could doom the prospects of reform altogether.

Andrea Christina Nill

Andrea Christina Nill is a Communications Associate at the Immigration Policy Center, an immigration research organization dedicated to guiding a rational debate on immigration in the U.S.

Republished with permission from Immigration Impact.


  1. Brittancus says

    SOMETIME THIS YEAR–THE PEOPLE–will be fight against another Immigration reform package? AMNESTY! Don’t listen to the politicians who state our borders are secure or that our fence has been completed. It’s a sordid lie, rhetoric! We have a drug war going on, that’s infiltrated our border cities and towns, even to the extent of extending into communities nationwide. Our country is under assault of illegal foreign nationals who are committing, murders, rapes, home invasion robberies, burglaries and an ongoing battle against drunk while driving foreigners, using their uninsured vehicles as killing machine. The drug dealers and mass illegal immigration is just part of our national problem?

    In Sanctuary cities and states such as California the very economy is under attack, because of the utter contempt of the Liberal Sacramento assembly for unceasingly giving of welfare benefits to illegal alien families. Schools cramped to the hilt, with the children of poor illegal immigrants. The Welfare lines that have been compromised by dishonesty and theft from true Americans. Prisons and jails deleted of funds. State budgets that are on the edge of financial disaster, because decades of political parties have pandered to the parasitic business world.

    We have our own workforce that can be trained for any kind of job, instead of importing more and more foreign nationals. The greed of corporate world is just manifest in America, to undermine the working conditions of US WORKERS. Citizens and legal residents already here should not have to compete with more imported labor, no matter what successful rung of industry. In the British Isles the working class is turning to (BNP) THE BRITISH NATION PARTY that will end forced immigration laws dictated to the indigenous English people. Read about the growing, all encompassing membership of ordinary people who are sick and tired of growing occupation of an infestation of Middle Easterners, Commonwealth people, Asylum seekers, refugees that are being catered to, while the real British people are being ignored.

    These foreigners are demanding their laws be enacted, including multiple wife’s and Sharia law. It’s disgusting and outrageous and the British parliament has used scare tactics, propaganda, as they are running scared knowing the Labor/Conservative and generic political parties may have seen their final days. Their Slogan says it all,” British jobs for British Workers.” Learn more at http://bnp.org.uk/ about this people’s party that will remain undisclosed by the Liberal/Socialist media in the US.

    In Los Angeles the law has been circumvented to allow illegal alien criminals walk away free. Murders by gang bangers are rife in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where many illegal alien criminals still walk the streets, collecting fraudulent welfare using bogus documents. Another AMNESTY means–CHAIN MIGRATION–of poor uneducated, non-English speaking, sick, handicapped family members, that Federal mandates have imposed on US taxpayers. Another Amnesty means more foreign nationals will come bringing their unpalatable customs, contagious diseases and criminal element, all to cater for predatory businesses.

    Any politicians, who are in collusion and keep pushing for another AMNESTY, must be extracted from office. Sen. Harry Reid eviscerated E-Verify, along with Pelosi. Sen. Feinstein who reintroduced the AGJOB act. Liberal Sen. Cedilla who wants drivers licenses for law breakers. These lawmakers are just the tip of the corrupt lawmakers. Remove them all–BEFORE IT”S TO LATE. Or just keep on paying higher and higher taxes to support the millions of illegal immigrants. Read the truth at JUDICIALWATCH, NUMBERSUSA, and CAPSWEB.

  2. Bonny says

    We need to get the illegals out of our jails and back to their home countries. That’s why the program is much needed, but of course, liberals like yourself don’t want us to deport any illegal immigrants. Apparently they deserve to illegally enter the US with no consequences in your world. Anyway, there’s nothing flawed with sending them back home, that’s where they belong.

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