Rose Garden Obama slams Romney for not answering media questions

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama’s campaign issued an attack video Friday ripping Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for evading the media’s immigration-related questions.

The video was released even though immigration activists are still seeking answers about the president’s June 15 proclamation in the White House’s Rose Garden, where the president pointedly declined to answer The Daily Caller’s questions about how the policy impacts American workers.

“On Friday, the president announced a change to U.S. immigration policy. Ever since, Mitt Romney has been dodging questions about repealing the order,” said the attack video, released by the “Obama Biden Truth Team.”

The video is titled “Mitt Romney on U.S. immigration policy; Why won’t he give a straight answer?”

The White House’s statement says it will stop applying immigration law against 800,000 people who arrived in the country before age 16, and who are still younger than 31. The 800,000 people would also get work permits.

The measure was widely recognized as a campaign-trail effort to spur support and turnout by Latino voters in critical swing-states.

Obama declined to take questions in the Rose Garden. Earlier that day, spokesman Jay Carney and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano had also declined to answer questions.

Since then, the administration has said little about the policy, although Obama’s campaign has prominently posted an edited video of Obama’s Rose Garden speech on the Latino sections of the campaign website.

The administration’s silence was maintained even though GOP legislators said his policy violates the law, disadvantages immigrants waiting in the formal entry process, and also would boost unemployment.

On June 21, for example, Carney fended off questions at the daily White House press conference about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s alternative immigration policy, but did not address the impact of Obama’s policy on unemployed Americans.

Much of that day’s press conference was focused on the White House’s controversial decision to deny documents to legislators investigating the Fast and Furious scandal.

Much is unknown about the new policy.

The Pew Research Center says 1.4 million people would be eligible for the work permits. Opponents said fraud could boost the number of work permits up to 3 million.

The policy’s creation of at least 800,000 new work permits may impact unemployed Americans.

Obama has frequently boasted that his policies have created 4 million new jobs, but roughly 23 million Americans are unemployed and underemployed in an economy where the workforce grows by roughly two million people per year. About a third of new workers are legal immigrants.

Unemployment is so high that less than 50 percent of African-American young males are in the full-time workforce. A June 20 New York Times article reported that half of African-American adults in the city did not have jobs.

Activists — including immigration lawyers, ethnic lobbies and activists urging cuts to immigration numbers — have combed through the administration’s statement in search of details.

Documents released June 15 said the amnesty would exclude people who had been formally found guilty of committing a felony or a “significant misdemeanor.”

Administration officials told immigration lawyers in a subsequent telephone conference that a drunk-driving conviction would disqualify applicants, but did not explain what they meant by “significant misdemeanor.”

“Significant misdemeanor” is not a legal term; it has no statutory definition,” said a statement from the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “It is simply a term that has been made up by the administration… [which] could change its mind at any time and make the term more or less inclusive.”

The June 15 announcement said that people who committed more than two misdemeanors would be excluded from the amnesty.

But that issue was later complicated by a statement saying the people would be disqualified if they commit “three or more misdemeanor offenses not occurring on the same date and not arising out of the same act, omission, or scheme of misconduct.”

This language suggests that applicants who have committed multiple misdemeanors on two occasions could still stay in the country.

The rules would apparently provide work permits to minors who arrived in the country without parents, said David North, an immigration expert with the Center for Immigration Studies.

That provision belies the administration’s claim that the beneficiaries came to the United Stats through “no fault of their own.”

The June 15 language also is silent about episodes where charges were dropped against applicants during plea bargaining, and says little about the problem of identification.

“What if an individual committed crimes in another country? Or was booked or convicted under a different name? Or an alien comes forward and applies for deferred action under a different name,” said an immigration activist.

“It’s not as if the alien will be producing a birth certificate from a U.S. hospital. They are illegal; that’s the whole point. They may have used multiple names, aliases, SSNs, etc. They may have used multiple fake documents.”

The administration provided vague details about the documents that would be deemed sufficient to prove an individual met the government’s rules. “Documentation sufficient for an individual to demonstrate that he or she came to the United States before the age of 16 includes, but is not limited to: financial records, medical records, school records, employment records, and military records.”

But after the 1986 amnesty, federal officials accepted many fraudulent documents, boosting the number of immigrants way above the forecasted numbers.

“I would assume, given the mood of the government, and the precedents, that various bits of evidence… would be considered and unless grossly phony would be accepted,” North said.

The likely acceptance of fraud could allow many people older than 31 to get work permits, he said. “I worry, particularly, at the older end of the spectrum, of highly questionable foreign birth certificates dated the last half of 1982 and 1983,” said North.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association declined to respond to TheDC’s request for information. The association’s members stand to gain from the new policy, which creates many new legal clients.

“The overarching point I would make is that this policy for granting deferred action, is … policy and not statutory language,” said one immigration activist. The government “could change the [rules and details] at any time.”

“This is a classic political strategy: set forth what appears to be a solid rule, and then undermine it with tons of exceptions,” said the activist. “Politicians know that neither the media nor the average American will have the time or patience to sort through it all.”

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