The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
President Barack Obama gestures during a town hall event on the economy at Racine Memorial Hall in Racine, Wisc., June 30, 2010. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images) President Barack Obama gestures during a town hall event on the economy at Racine Memorial Hall in Racine, Wisc., June 30, 2010. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)  

Obama hides aid for criminals in immigration bill

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The White House is trying to hide unpopular provisions in the Senate’s immigration bill that would allow immigrant criminals to stay in the country and would increase the inflow of low-skill refugees from war-torn countries, says a top White House official.

“The bill has a number of other important provisions that have stayed under the radar, and we’d actually like to keep them under the radar,” said Esther Olavarria, the White House’s director of immigration reform.

“We haven’t played [them] up because we want to be able to maintain them as we go through the legislative process,” she told about 50 attendees at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual conference, on Sept. 19.

At the CBC foundation event, Olavarria described the sections in the Senate bill that she’s trying to hide from the public and the GOP.

The first section reverses parts of the 1996 immigration reform, which allowed law-enforcement authorities to deport long-term residents who have committed crimes.

The Senate bill “redefines ‘convictions,’ it redefines ‘sentences,’ to make it more realistic, so individuals who get suspended sentences would not be found inadmissible or deportable under these new provisions,” she told the attendees.

The liberal pre-1996 rule “was a very good provision,” and its revival in the Senate bill will “allow long-time residents who committed minor crimes to be able to stay here,” she said.

By accepting criminals and increasing the inflow of poor refugees, “they’re putting non-citizens in a higher position than native Americans,” said D.A. King, who runs the Dustin Inman Society, which seeks to reduce the annual inflow of legal immigrants.

“When you have over 22 million Americans that are out of work or underemployed, we have to have to an immigration system that puts these American citizens back to work,” King said.

Polls from rival groups indicate that majorities of Americans oppose the increases in immigration demanded by Democrats and by many businesses who eager for cheaper workers and extra customers.

Olavarria also suggested that the GOP leadership in the House, led by House Speaker John Boehner, may help pass an bill to increase immigration, despite opposition from the base and the possibility that immigrants will eventually vote for Democratic politicians.

“The House is a very difficult place. … The [leadership is] not sure how they’re going to get to immigration reform,” she said when asked by The Daily Caller if the GOP leadership wants to pass an immigration rewrite.

“The speaker has difficulties with lots of things,” she said.

Last week, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Republican chairman of the House’s judiciary committee, revived progressives’ hopes that the GOP leadership is quietly looking for a way to pass an immigration bill. ”We have to find the appropriate legal status for people who are not lawfully here,” Goodlatte told an audience of Hispanic politicians and activists attending an event planned by the House Republican Conference.