Enforcement Crackdown to Build Support for Immigration Reform?30 Dec 2009
The LA Times proposed an interesting theory to explain the Obama administration’s continued push to increase enforcement of existing immigration laws: it may be a deliberate strategy to win public support for immigration reform by showing that the administration will not be “soft” on immigration. (See: “It’s Time for Immigration Reform, LA Times editorial, Dec 26, 2009.)
According to the article, this aggressive, pro-enforcement stance has come as a surprise to many, both in the business community and among immigrant-advocacy groups, who expected Obama’s election to lead quickly to the “pathway to citizenship” for the 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants estimated to be present in the United States. Instead, as the LA Times put it, the new administration has used many sticks and few carrots, ramping up federal prosecutions (see above), deportations, company audits for I-9 violations, and expansion of the 287(g) program, that allows local police agencies to become a sort of ICE-auxiliary force.
For those reading the legislative tea leaves, the LA Times advises against pinning all hopes on H.R. 4321, the immigration reform bill introduced in the House of Representatives, in mid-December, by Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Like many who follow this issue closely, the LA Times editors await the introduction in the Senate of a bipartisan immigration reform bill, expected to be introduced by Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat who chairs the Senate Immigration Subcommittee. As the editorial points out, Sen. Schumer and his Republican colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have already hammered out an agreement on the principles that will guide their reform efforts: (1) “rigorous workplace and border enforcement,” (2) “a realistic assessment of the nation’s need for skilled and unskilled labor,” (3) “a commitment to controlling the future flow of illegal immigration,” and (4) “bringing millions of people away from the edges of society.” That sounds like a reasonable place to start. Let’s hope it won’t take too long to put the theory into practice.