Obama rolls back immigration enforcement, again

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The White House’s immigration lawyers have issued yet another bureaucratic order that will curb the election-year deportation of illegal immigrants, and perhaps spur the supply of Hispanic voters.

The new memo will shelter many illegals who have not committed violent crimes, or who are not suspected of being a national security threat, from routine deportation efforts by professionals in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency. There are roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, including roughly seven million in the workforce.

The order is a “positive step … [because] it lets officers focus solely on the job at hand, [which is] referring most enforcement actions to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency formed for that purpose,” said a Nov. 8 statement from Eleanor Pelta, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

According to Pelta, the memo “realigns the agency’s goals to better reflect its original and intended purpose… [which is] adjudicating immigration petitions and applications,” not enforcement. The AILA’s membership consists of lawyers who are hired by foreigners to avoid deportation, and to gain a share of the many valuable benefits that come with residency and citizenship.

The nine-page memo is titled “Revised Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Removable Aliens.”

Hispanic ethic lobby groups have repeatedly urged the administration to scale back enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws, despite a national unemployment rate of nine percent, and a Hispanic unemployment rate of at least 11 percent.

In a series of meetings with administration officials, and in many public statements, the leaders of the ethnic lobbies have said continued enforcement of immigration laws will reduce their ability to rally Hispanic voters behind Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

White House officials, including Obama, recognize the unpopularity of additional immigration during a recession, and publicly say they are required to enforce the nation’s laws. Officials, including Obama, have repeatedly urged the ethnic lobbies to persuade Congress to pass a so-called comprehensive immigration law that would provide valuable citizenship documents to millions of unskilled immigrants and their dependents.

Republican and Democratic legislators, like White House officials, show no desire to publicly champion a controversial immigration or amnesty bill.

Yet Obama’s campaign officials say they need a wave of new Hispanic voters in 2012 to offset his losses among American voters in the mid-West, in blue collar jobs and in swing states, such as Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina. In 2008, Obama won more than 60 percent of Hispanic vote.

Because of this dilemma, administration officials have issued several bureaucratic decisions since June that exploit the laws’ complexity to exempt increasing numbers of illegal immigrants from routine deportation efforts. Justice Department officials have also sued states for passing local immigration laws.

Those measures have been applauded by the AILA and by Hispanic ethnic lobbies, such the National Council of La Raza. To some extent, the ethnic lobbies can spur turnout and enthusiasm by Hispanic voters next year.

The administration’s earlier announcements have already established a de facto amnesty for many subgroups of illegal immigrants, such as younger immigrants, despite the nation’s record unemployment rates that have left at least 14 million Americans unemployed, say critics.

The administration’s step-by-step strategy “sets a course that prevents the enforcement of immigration law, provides a de facto amnesty, and is effectively worker authorization for much of the current illegal population,” according to an October paper by Janice Kephart, the director of national security issues at the D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies.

However, the immigration boosters say the administration’s new policies haven’t gone far enough. For example, AILA officials are still “dismayed by the [new] guidance’s perpetuation of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System… [the government] should simply cease to apply these rules,” according to Pelta’s statement.

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