The prospect of a comprehensive administrative amnesty for illegal aliens increased last week. On Friday, the White House issued a new policy telling immigration agents not to arrest and deport illegal immigrant parents of minor children. The move extends amnesty-in-place to yet another category of aliens.
The administration’s step-by-step amnesty began in June 2011 when then-Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton ordered his staff to use prosecutorial discretion in deportation cases. Instead of focusing strictly on immigration law violators, ICE working in tandem with the Justice Department would decide whether the alien had committed what in their collective opinions were serious crimes. The excuse the Department of Homeland Security offered for this constitutional violation was that by not deporting individuals ICE deemed non-threatening, it could devote its financial resources on removing those who pose serious risks to local communities.
In 2012, at President Obama’s direction, DHS expanded prosecutorial discretion to include deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), also unconstitutional. In the first year since DACA began, DHS has approved 430,000 applicants and, an added bonus, issued work permits to them.
Then last week, President Obama took his third and latest step on the road to a complete administrative amnesty. In its nine-page memo called the “Family Interest Directive,” ICE again ordered agents to exercise prosecutorial discretion, this time to avoid detaining DACA’s parents. Should they be detained, agents must make sure the parents can visit with their children or participate in family court proceedings. The latest policy could allow previously deported aliens to return to the U.S. to participate in any legal procedure, immigration related or not, involving their minor children.
Two years ago, Obama admitted that if he avoided Congress on immigration it would be unconstitutional. When asked at a spring 2011 Univision town hall why he didn’t simply stop the deportation of young illegals through an executive order, Obama replied that “there are laws on the books…Congress passes the law. The Executive Branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws.” Obama concluded that to “ignore congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.”
Despite Obama’s staunch words, radical, Marxist special interest groups changed the president’s mind. Prosecutorial discretion is not Congress’ brainchild but instead an idea that sprung up from amnesty advocates like the National Council of La Raza. By caving into them, the administration gives official standing to radical groups who promote a far left political agenda. Instead of Congress enforcing immigration law, radicals have veto power of who is detained and deported.
Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte blasted the ICE memo as the latest in Obama’s efforts to circumvent immigration law by “directing ICE agents to stop removing broad categories of unlawful immigrants.” Goodlatte said that Obama is trying to “politicize the issue” rather than work with Congress for a compromise bill.
But since Republicans did nothing to stop or even to object to Obama’s first two DHS directives to ignore immigration law, it’s unlikely they’ll take meaningful action this time around. So tepid has Republican’s response been to the administration’s anti-enforcement that presidential candidate Mitt Romney never mentioned it during his campaign.
How much further the White House may go to advance prosecutorial discretion is unknown. The Congressional Research Service writes that the president’s prosecutorial discretion powers are “broad,” they are not however “unfettered.” While that’s encouraging, it may not be enough. Unless Republicans, fulfilling their role as the opposition party, mount strong resistance, there could be a fourth step not too far in the future.