Bob Barr

President Ronald Reagan was optimistic about the future of immigration reform when he signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, a legislative effort he described as one of the “longest and most difficult” of the time. “This legislation takes a major step toward meeting this challenge to our sovereignty,” Reagan stated upon signing the legislation. “At the same time, it preserves and enhances the Nation's heritage of legal immigration.”

The Gipper’s optimism would be grossly misplaced when considering our country’s immigration mess today.

In 1986, when the IRCA was signed, there were 3.2 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. Twenty-five years later, in 2011, that number had mushroomed to at least an estimated 11.5 million. Making matters worse, on the “enforcement” side of the equation, the number of persons deported from the U.S. in 2012 stood at a mere 400,000; roughly 3.4 percent of the illegal population (and that figure does not account for the hundreds of thousands of new illegal immigrants who crossed our borders to replace them).

Faced with this reality about the status of America’s immigration system, one might assume the logical first steps to begin the process of “reform” would be securing our country’s borders, and expelling illegal immigrants who had been caught and convicted for committing crimes while in the country illegally.

Yet, even on this simple task, the Obama Administration has failed miserably. A recent report released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) notes that in 2013, the agency released from custody -- that’s right, let go -- more than 36,000 illegal immigrants who already had been convicted of criminal offenses within the United States. The crimes committed by this lucky group included convictions for homicide (193), rape and sexual assault (426), kidnapping (303), aggravated assault (1,075), vehicle theft (1,160), and drunk/drugged driving (16,070), just to name a few. In fact, the 36,000 criminals released by ICE were responsible for 88,000 convictions; an average of 2.4 for each one of the individuals arrested.

Think about this. President Obama is asking the American public to trust him and his Democratic colleagues in Congress to pass immigration “reform,” even as his Department of Justice is setting free tens of thousands of illegal aliens responsible for some of the most heinous crimes on the books, rather than uphold the laws they are sworn to protect and deport those convicts.

This is what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calls “justice?” Justice for whom, one might ask? There certainly is no justice for the innocent American victims of the crimes committed by these illegal aliens; or for the victims of crimes many will commit in the future.

Republicans in Congress are justifiably skeptical of this Administration’s “leadership” in crafting “bipartisan” immigration “reform.” Conservatives have long maintained that if Obama and Holder cannot or will not enforce immigration laws already on the books, they cannot be trusted to craft new ones; no matter how enticingly packaged as “reforms.”

Considering this Administration’s verified track record of immigration failure, there is no way Republican members of Congress should view immigration “reform” proposals emanating from Obama as being offered in “good faith.” This sentiment was articulated even by amnesty-friendly Republicans such as Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC). “This sets everything back,” Graham told Breitbart News following the release of ICE’s report. “I don’t think many Americans want an illegal immigrant who has been convicted of a felony to stay in the country and sure as hell not released from jail.”

It perhaps should come as no surprise that a Department of Justice that sold hundreds of guns to drug cartels in Mexico as part of its “Operation Fast and Furious,” has failed once again to protect Americans; this time by releasing dangerous criminals back onto the streets. Nor is it much of a surprise that an Administration that spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a healthcare website that would not work, could botch the multi-faceted problem of protecting America’s borders.

True immigration reform will come not from the Democrats on Capitol Hill; but rather through Republican-backed proposals that truly place America’s security at the starting blocks -- even if that means delaying immigration reform until after the November elections.

There is no question that immigration reform is desperately needed – including reform of legal immigration processes (such as work permits, visas, etc.) – but a rush to pass immigration “reform” now, just to placate liberal constituencies or to show constituents that Congress has done “something,” would not only be irresponsible but downright dangerous.


Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.