Stung by three states pulling out of its Secure Communities dragnet of a program to catch illegal immigrants and deport them, along with increasing political pressure from immigration reform activists and the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, the Obama Administration is now urging "prosecutorial discretion" in kicking undocumented people out of the country.
As is the case with so many of this administration's policies, this latest "compromise" in immigration enforcement is pleasing nobody. Immigration agents are up in arms about a new directive sent out last week by IME chief John Morton, instructing them how to pick and choose who to arrest and deport, and who to let slide. Their union claims they are being put in the untenable position of breaking the law by arresting and charging some people but letting others go. A unanimous no-confidence vote against Morton has been taken over the new guidelines.
And then Republican Senate Judiciary Chairman Lamar Alexander reacted by announcing legislation to prevent the president from ever granting amnesty by executive order to DREAM Act candidates. This is the same guy who was all for a humane path to citizenship last century when John McCain was for it too.
Obama could sign that executive order today to give immediate protection to thousands of undocumented people who can demonstrate they have lived, worked or studied in the United States since childhood. He has thus far refused to do so, again preferring that the problem be solved legislatively. (and now, through an under-the-radar internal IME memo). Not a chance of that happening congressionally, and he knows it. Now, if Alexander has his way and his preventive amnesty-freezing bill goes through, that decision will be conveniently wrested from the president's hands. Another case of "I really wanted to, but the Republicans wouldn't let me."
Instead the IME guy is being thrown under the bus by both his boss and his employees, and the DREAM act candidates continue living their nightmare in legal limbo, counting on IME agents to become selectively humane if they feel like it on any given day. More stasis we can all believe in.
The immigration debate took on new poignant meaning last week with the publication in The New York Times of two stories. One was a first-person account by a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has just "come out of the closet" about his illegal status, explaining he just can't stand the deception any more. His own newspaper, The Washington Post, had refused to publish it, probably out of consideration of its own legal position. Another NYT article chronicled the arrest and imprisonment of an "illegal alien" who also happens to be a decorated Iraq War veteran. His crime? Failing to tell the military that a long time ago he applied for a passport but never completed the process.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is holding a hearing on the DREAM Act tomorrow, with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Education Secretary Arne Duncan expected to testify. Can't wait to watch the uncomfortable wriggling by the Democrats and hear the self-righteous xenophobic ranting of the Republicans in the next episode of Cancel Each Other Out Theater.