Townhall.com Staff

Recently our commander-in-chief has stated that some illegal immigrants are not a target of law enforcement. “Our enforcement priority is not to chase down young people who are going to school,” the president said in an online roundtable.

“We’ve tried to be as fair, humane, just as we can, recognizing, though, that the laws themselves need to be changed,” President Obama said, continuing, “we’ve got to have a pathway to citizenship and for legal status for those who are already here and have put roots down here and are part of the fabric of our community.”

Concerned about the underlying message, some members of congress decried such statements as “administrative amnesty.”

And, naturally, by conducting a congressional hearing on the matter. Tuesday, Oct. 4, the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security met to discuss this issue, titling the hearing: Does Administrative Amnesty Harm our Efforts to Gain and Maintain Operational Control of the Border?

Subcommittee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-MI) opened by reminding those present that “we are either a nation of laws or we are not,” mentioning that lenient enforcement of illegal immigration is a “slap in the face” to immigrants who came here legally. She added that the Obama administration “circumvents the legislative process.”

The response by Ranking Member Henry Cuellar (D-TX) was one of practicality more than principle, as he lamented the fact there are millions of undocumented aliens and only the resources to remove around 400,000 per year. Because of this, he argued, there must be “prosecutorial discretion” – each case should be dealt with individually.

Chairwoman Miller was receptive to the need for funding and sought specifics: “We need to know what kind of resources are necessary.”

Rep. Thompson (D-MS) said that if there are 11 million illegal immigrants and it costs $23 thousand to deport one, it would cost $257.6 billion to “eradicate the problem.” (The current Immigration and Customs Enforcement annual budget, according to deputy director Kumar Kibble, is around $6 billion).

Discretion continued to be the catchword of the subcommittee minority members as they lamented a lack of resources and urged a focus on the “dangerous” illegal immigrants. Dangerous was largely defined as illegal immigrants with a criminal record.

Majority member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) grew tired of prosecutorial discretion being framed as the cause for disagreement, asserting, “I understand the concept of prosecutorial discretion. It’s nothing new.”

The issue McCaul was interested in was the New York Times report that had administration officials saying that illegal immigrants could apply for work permits. “Is this the policy?” he asked witness and Deputy Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Kumar Kibble.

Kibble dodged the questino deftly, saying that it didn’t “appropriately characterize” the policy. It would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, while they tried to optimize the 400,000 fundable deportations by choosing dangerous illegal immigrants, he said. After further questioning Kibble admitted they could apply, but did not make any further concessions about the likelihood of illegal immigrants actually receiving work permits.

McCaul reminded Kibble that Mohammed Atta, a 9/11 plane hijacker, had no criminal background. Many of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks were students with no criminal backgrounds. They would never jeopardize their mission by being committing typical crimes. 

Chairwoman Miller echoes my sentiments, she said that these lenient enforcement policies serve as motivation for “those who want to bring us harm.” She pointed out that dangerous terrorists are a part of sleeper cells, and aren’t just going to be caught drunk driving or assaulting someone. She expressed concern that they can enter America as illegal immigrants or stay after their visa expires (like many of the 9/11 hijackers) yet (under the principles being championed by President Obama and these unnamed officials) they are unlikely to be removed.

Through a pointed series of questions, Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and ICE Deputy Director Kibble responded to security concerns by asserting that those with terrorist ties would be likely found through their connections and “interagency efforts,” even if there were no criminal records to flag them.

Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ) brought the focus to the cost incurred by having illegal immigrants. He admitted he has heard numbers as high as an annual cost of 113 billion, and around 84 billion of that was paid by state and local governments. “Because we aren’t doing our job,” he said of the federal government.

Quayle said these statements about untargeted illegal immigrants have big implications. Not an opponent of discretion, he instead disagrees with the principle that there is a group of people enforcement “goes after” and a group they “won’t go after.”

The man has a point.

How would any potential illegal immigrant be deterred by hearing they aren't of enforcement concern if they're lawbreakers? They get a free pass if they play nice. But being here illegally is still a crime. Even if they aren’t active criminals – they’re costing Americans money. They’re benefiting from all our government services without having to pay their “fair share” – (a term quite popularized in recent tax discussions).

This principle of selective enforcement sends the message that legal immigration is a waste of time. Being illegal is far easier. That's terribly unfair to those who choose to enter our country the right way.

(This post was written by Mary Crookston)