Ira Mehlman

Now that President Obama and congressional Republicans have managed to talk themselves and the nation off the fiscal cliff, one of their top legislative priorities for 2013 will be to tackle the ever thorny issue of immigration reform.

As currently being discussed, “comprehensive immigration reform” will entail some form of amnesty for most or all of the 10-15 million illegal aliens believed to reside here, and significant increases in the number of legal immigrants we admit each year – a figure that already tops 1 million a year. None of these “reforms” is likely to be particularly popular with the American people, especially given the anemic growth of our economy and the weakness of the job market. So, to sweeten the bitter pill that Congress and the president will try to get the American public to swallow, amnesty and immigration increases will be packaged with new laws that are supposed to prevent the next wave of prospective illegal aliens from entering, living and working in the U.S.

There can be little doubt, however, that these new enforcement provisions will be utterly meaningless. President Obama has already made it clear in a thousand different ways that he will not carry them out. And Congress, including the Republican majority in the House, has already made it clear that they don’t care if the president neglects his constitutional obligation to enforce the laws they write and pass.

The policy of the Obama administration has been to limit enforcement of U.S. immigration laws to violent criminal aliens, or those who otherwise pose a security risk to the nation. The president has repeatedly asserted virtually unlimited discretion not to enforce immigration laws against all other immigration law violators.

As recently as late-December, the administration reinforced this position when it announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would no longer take custody of illegal aliens arrested by local police for what the agency deems to be minor offenses. Moreover, ICE Director John Morton quietly backed off the administration’s pre-election insistence that state and local police are required to honor his agency’s requests that they detain even the aliens ICE does want to take into custody. In a closed door meeting with California sheriffs, Morton agreed with the state's attorney general's legal opinion that local law enforcement is not obligated to honor ICE requests.

Ira Mehlman

Ira Mehlman is the Media Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.