As the severe crisis on our southern border — especially the influx of thousands of unaccompanied children who have come here illegally from Central America — receives daily coverage by the media, prospects of Congress passing “immigration reform” legislation during this session are becoming very unlikely.
What’s more, a recent Pew Research Center poll indicates that a majority of Americans favor speeding up the process of deporting Central American children who are in the nation illegally. A majority also disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the illegal immigration problem.
The odds of the House even voting on the “Gang of Eight” bill passed by the Senate on June 27, 2013 were looking very slim even before the border crisis became the leading story in the news. But as the influx grew impossible to ignore, President Obama decided to take matters into his own hands. On June 30, he said would use his executive authority to “fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”
In response to Obama’s statement, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, “The crisis at our southern border reminds us all of the critical importance of fixing our broken immigration system. It is sad and disappointing that — faced with this challenge — President Obama won't work with us, but is instead intent on going it alone with executive orders that can't and won't fix these problems.”
Boehner added that Obama’s previous executive orders “have led directly to the humanitarian crisis.”
Both Obama and Republican leaders have used almost identical language in referring to the large numbers of unaccompanied children as a “humanitarian crisis” (which, despite its preventable causes, is true), as well as saying that our immigration system is “broken” and needs to be “fixed.”
On July 8, Obama sent a letter to Boehner requesting emergency supplemental appropriations in the amount of $3.7 billion to “comprehensively address” the “urgent humanitarian situation” on “on both sides of the Southwest border.”
However, when the details of the president’s request were released, they immediately came under fire. In an analysis of the request, Dan Cadman of the Center for Immigrations Studies had this to say:
While administration leaders publicly claim they are working to effectively stem the tide of arrivals and ensure their speedy removal, everything about the budget request suggests this is more about resettlement, prolonging removal proceedings into infinity, and then quietly letting the tens of thousands of most recent arrivals recede into the woodwork of society to join the more than 840,000 aliens who are already fugitives from immigration courts around the country.
As we noted in our article on July 8, even a recently released Department of Homeland Security report acknowledged that the government’s failure to deport those who have entered the United States illegally is among the “pull factors” prompting more people to follow suit.
As the immigration crisis worsened and cast more doubt on the Obama administration’s ability to handle the unmanageable tide of illegal border crossers, on July 14 the administration finally took a very small step at doing what it should have been doing for years — deporting the illegal immigrants. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that about 40 illegal immigrants were placed on a plane in Roswell, New Mexico, and flown to Honduras.
“As President Obama, the vice president and [Homeland Security] Secretary [Jeh] Johnson have said, our border is not open to illegal migration, and we will send recent illegal migrants back,” ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said.
Considering that the Obama administration estimates that 60,000 children unaccompanied by parents or relatives will pour into the United States this year, the effect (or lack thereof) of deporting 40 illegal immigrants is obvious.
However, the administration is engaged in a difficult balancing act — starting to deport a handful of illegals to cater to public demands that it do something, while risking alienating members of its own party.
The New York Times noted in a July 17 article:
In a sign of the pressure on the president from all sides, on Wednesday Obama’s Democratic allies in Congress, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and the members of the Hispanic Caucus, vowed to oppose his plans to make the deportation of the children easier.
“Is the only immigration bill we’re going to have one that hurts children?” Pelosi said in an interview.
Basically, noted the Times report, the administration is trying to have its cake and eat it, too, by selectively deciding which illegal immigrants should be deported and which should be allowed to stay:
Inside the West Wing and at the Justice and Homeland Security departments, administration lawyers have been working to find consistent legal justifications for speeding up the deportations of Central American children at the border while preparing to ease up on deportations of long-settled immigrants in the country’s interior.
Despite this latest charade, opinion polls indicate that the public’s view of the Obama administration’s immigration policy is less than favorable and that amnesty for illegal immigrants (usually described as “a path to citizenship”) has also fallen from favor.
A July 16 NBC/Marist battleground Senate poll taken in Iowa (considered a key political state because its caucuses are held in early January of presidential election years and are the first major electoral event of the nominating process for president) indicated that “48 percent of those polled oppose creating an opportunity for citizenship for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally even if they have a job, and 46 percent support this proposed legislation.”
This “opportunity for citizenship” — effectively amnesty — was a major stumbling block that has caused conservative members of the House to oppose the “Gang of Eight” bill passed by the Senate last year.
A July 8-14 poll taken by the Pew Research Center asked, “With an increasing number of Central American children entering the country illegally,” what should the U.S. response be? Fifty-three percent said we should speed up the process, even if some who are eligible for asylum are deported. Only 39 percent said we should follow our current policy, though the process could take a long time.
The Pew poll also reported that just 28 percent of those surveyed said they approve of the way that President Obama is handling the crisis, while 56 percent disapprove.
A report in the July 16 Washington Post noted that the latest Gallup poll has shown a rapid increase in immigration as a major area of concern among Americans. When asked “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” 17 percent answered “Immigrations/Illegal Aliens”— the top choice. Only a month earlier, only five percent chose “Immigrations/Illegal Aliens” while 20 percent named the economy as the number-one problem.
The Post writer concluded: “Comprehensive immigration reform is dead. The border crisis should prevent its reincarnation.”
Photo of illegal immigrants being held at a Border Patrol station in Texas: AP Images