The ancient Chinese practice of lingchi, the "Death of a Thousand Cuts," best describes the manner in which the Obama administration has systematically whittled away most immigration enforcement since taking office. Over time, the rule of law has been shredded not by a single act, but by many small cuts.
A review of President Obama's record reveals a jaw-dropping steady and stealthy dismantling of virtually every tool and resource used to identify and remove deportable aliens.
Out with the Old -- Gut What Works
Immediately after taking office, the Obama administration replaced effective worksite enforcement that targeted both employers and illegal workers with meaningless paper audits and modest fines. Meanwhile, the administration refused to consider making E-Verify mandatory for all employers, even resisting efforts to permanently reauthorize it, despite hundreds of thousands of businesses voluntarily using the program.
Failing to hold employers who hire illegal aliens accountable was an early, yet clear signal that the Obama administration intended to derail all enforcement.
The administration focused their sights next on programs that helped local law enforcement identify illegal aliens. Both the 287(g) and the Secure Communities agreements were rewritten to emphasize that only criminal aliens would be processed. A “don’t-ask, don’t-tell” policy took effect for all other illegal aliens.
In with the New -- Rewrite the Rules
In 2011, Obama’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director, John Morton, issued a series of internal directives instructing agency staff to focus their efforts exclusively on removing illegal aliens with criminal records. The administration would exercise “prosecutorial discretion” for all others. The new priorities – still in place – imply that immigration violations, in and of themselves, are inconsequential.
Squash Resistance -- Sue the States
With local programs such as 287(g) and Secure Communities weakened and federal authority (to not enforce the law) broadened by way of the new internal memos, the administration had consolidated the power it needed to initiate backdoor amnesty without interference. Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ) became the instrument of intimidation. States that enacted their own bills requiring local police to identify illegal aliens and turn them over to federal custody, felt the blows one after the other. The DOJ sued Arizona, South Carolina, and Utah.
Distract and Deceive
To distract attention from his actions, Obama told Americans that the border was secure and that that deportations were up.
Both were deceptions.
In official documents, DHS stated that only 44% of the border was under operational control. And while deportations had, in fact risen slightly, the increase had nothing to do with expanding enforcement by the Obama administration. A “pipeline” of deportable cases was filled by vigorous enforcement during the last two years of the Bush administration. Those cases carried forward and Obama took credit in his first two years. Moreover, while deportations for violent criminal aliens had risen, all other deportations were down indicating that the Obama administration felt it could pick and choose which laws to enforce.
The Final Blow
From the beginning, President Obama knew that the public would reject amnesty legislation. However, he also knew he stood a good chance of getting it done through a strategy of piecemeal efforts, provided no one noticed.
With an election looming and special interests demanding grandiose and immediate action, in June President Obama declared unilaterally that he was using executive power to implement the DREAM Act for an untold number illegal alien “kids” who were brought here through “no fault of their own.”
During his DREAM Act speech, Obama failed to mention that his new edict allowed illegal aliens up to the age of 30 to qualify.
Then, in an interview shortly thereafter with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, DHS Secretary Napolitano admitted that parents of illegal aliens applying for deferred action – illegal alien adults who most certainly did knowingly break the law – will not be subject to immigration enforcement. As she said, “we have it internally set up.”
With that announcement, amnesty for illegal aliens tripled.
So much for Obama’s argument he was giving amnesty just to “kids” who were “brought here through no fault of their own.”
Obama’s Death of a Thousand Cuts has virtually gutted our country’s immigration enforcement apparatus, but the record is clear and the public must hold this president accountable. Congress has an urgent mandate to begin the work of restoring credibility to our immigration system by stopping the cuts, healing the wounds, and reinstating the rule of law.
FAIR’s new report detailing President Obama’s dismal immigration enforcement policy record can found at www.fairus.org.
Bob Dane is Communications Director for FAIR and Kristen Williamson is Press Secretary for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.