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Believe President Obama on Immigration: He Will Not Enforce Most Laws Even After an Amnesty

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

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.

Under the rubric of setting priorities, the Obama administration has essentially nullified broad sections of the immigration code by simply refusing to enforce laws against broad classes of immigration lawbreakers. In 2012, President Obama went even one step further, asserting executive authority to implement key provisions of the DREAM Act amnesty – a bill he supported – even though Congress had rejected it just 18 months earlier. Under his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the president unilaterally decided that perhaps as many as 2 million illegal aliens would be allowed to remain in the U.S. indefinitely and be given authorization to work here, in spite of explicit legislative prohibitions against the employment of illegal aliens.

It is rare when the American people can feel confident that a politician is telling them the truth. This is one of those times. During his first four years in office, President Obama has both told us and demonstrated to us that he will not enforce immigration laws. It does not matter, then, what enforcement provisions Congress may include in an amnesty bill. President Obama will not carry them out, Congress will not hold him accountable, and people around the world will have even less reason to respect our immigration laws.


In the end, comprehensive immigration reform will mean amnesty for countless millions of illegal aliens, followed by crushing social costs to support this largely low-skilled and poorly educated population, and a crippling blow to already embattled American workers. In exchange, the American people will receive promises of future enforcement that the president has already assured us he will not keep.

Unlike 1986, the last time Congress granted amnesty in exchange for promises of future immigration enforcement, we will not need to wait a decade or more to discover that we got amnesty without enforcement. President Obama is telling us that right now. We should believe him.

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