The Administration’s Phantom Immigration Enforcement Policy

Ira Mehlman
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Posted: Dec 07, 2009 4:45 PM
The setting was not quite the flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln with a “Mission Accomplished” banner as the backdrop, but it was the next best thing. Speaking at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on Nov. 13, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared victory over illegal immigration and announced that the Obama administration is ready to move forward with a mass amnesty for the millions of illegal aliens already living in the United States.

Arguing the Obama administration’s case for amnesty, Napolitano laid out what she described as the “three-legged stool” for immigration reform. As the administration views it, immigration reform must include “a commitment to serious and effective enforcement, improved legal flows for families and workers, and a firm but fair way to deal with those who are already here.”

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Acknowledging that a lack of confidence in the government’s ability and commitment to effectively enforce the immigration laws it passes proved to be the Waterloo of previous efforts to gain amnesty for illegal aliens, Napolitano was quick to reassure the American public that those concerns could be put to rest.

“For starters, the security of the Southwest border has been transformed from where it was in 2007,” stated the secretary. Not only is the border locked up tight, she continued, but the situation is well in-hand in the interior of the country as well. “We’ve also shown that the government is serious and strategic in its approach to enforcement by making changes in how we enforce the law in the interior of the country and at worksites…Furthermore, we’ve transformed worksite enforcement to truly address the demand side of illegal immigration.”

If Rep. Joe Wilson had been in attendance to hear Secretary Napolitano’s CAP speech he might well have had a few choice comments to offer. But since he wasn’t, we will have to rely on the Department of Homeland Security’s own data to assess the veracity of Napolitano’s claims.

According to DHS’s own reports, very little of our nation’s borders (Southwestern or otherwise) are secure, and gaining control is not even a goal of the department. DHS claims to have “effective control” over just 894 miles of border. That’s 894 out of 8,607 miles they are charged with protecting. As for the other 7,713 miles? DHS’s stated border security goal for FY 2010 is the same 894 miles.

The administration’s strategic approach to interior and worksite enforcement is just as chimerical as its strategy at the border, unless one considers shuffling paper to be a strategy. DHS data, released November 18, show that administrative arrests of immigration law violators fell by 68 percent between 2008 and 2009. The department also carried out 60 percent fewer arrests for criminal violations of immigration laws, 58 percent fewer criminal indictments, and won 63 percent fewer convictions.

While the official unemployment rate has climbed from 7.6 percent when President Obama took office in January to 10 percent today, the administration’s worksite enforcement strategy has amounted to a bureaucratic game of musical chairs. The administration has all but ended worksite enforcement actions and replaced them with paperwork audits. When the audits determine that illegal aliens are on the payroll, employers are given the opportunity to fire them with little or no adverse consequence to the company, while no action is taken to remove the illegal workers from the country. The illegal workers simply acquire a new set of fraudulent documents and move on to the next employer seeking workers willing to accept substandard wages.

In Janet Napolitano’s alternative reality a mere 10 percent of our borders under “effective control” and sharp declines in arrests and prosecutions of immigration lawbreakers may be construed as confidence builders, but it is hard to imagine that the American public is going to see it that way. If anything, the administration’s record has left the public less confident that promises of future immigration enforcement would be worth the government paper they’re printed on.

As Americans scrutinize the administration’s plans to overhaul immigration policy, they are likely to find little in the “three-legged stool” being offered that they like or trust. The first leg – enforcement – the administration has all but sawed off. The second – increased admissions of extended family members and workers – makes little sense with some 25 million Americans either unemployed or relegated to part-time work. And the third – amnesty for millions of illegal aliens – is anathema to their sense of justice and fair play.

As Americans well know, declaring “Mission Accomplished” and actually accomplishing a mission are two completely different things. When it comes to enforcing immigration laws, the only message the public is receiving from this administration is “Mission Aborted.”