Team Obama's Magic Act -- Rise of Deportations Hides Drop in Immigration Enforcement

Choreographing any magic trick involves two fundamentals; simulation to create the illusion that something has happened that really hasn’t, and misdirection to divert attention away from the sleight of hand.

The famous magician Harry Houdini would be proud of President Obama’s efforts to fool Americans into believing that immigration enforcement has increased. His trick is getting the public to focus on the total number of deportations while he hides the details of what those total numbers really reveal.

Mr. Obama claims that his nearly 400,000 annual deportations of illegal aliens are higher than yearly deportations under President Bush. The claim is true – sort of, but so what? The previous president never adequately addressed the escalating cost and impact of illegal immigration so using his deportation numbers as a benchmark sets the bar very low. Besides, at the present rate of deportations, it will take 32 years to remove the 13 million illegal aliens already residing here - not to mention a few more on their way. The president hardly deserves a gold star for simply doing the minimum.

The 400,000 is nothing to marvel at but it’s even less impressive when it becomes apparent who is really being deported, who is not, and why.

The true sleight of hand lies in the fact that while deportations of illegal aliens who have committed violent felonies is up, deportations of illegal aliens who have “only” committed immigration violations is evaporating quickly. In 2009, 65% of removals were illegal aliens who had violated immigration laws “only.”

In 2011, that number had fallen to 45% which, incidentally, is even lower than in the Bush administration. The downward trend represents a new hands-off policy for most illegal aliens living in the United States and is the core component of this administration’s systematic dismantling of most interior immigration enforcement.

In a series of internal policy guidelines known as the “Morton Memos” – sent from ICE Director John Morton to field staff throughout this past year – the administration made it clear that violations of immigration laws, in and of themselves, are of little consequence. The new priorities focus on illegal aliens who have criminal histories or represent a threat to national security.
Deportations are up not because the administration is removing more illegal aliens for immigration violations but rather because the tool of deportation is being used mostly in the fight against other crimes.

Unfortunately these new priorities transmit a global message for all those thinking about coming to the United States illegally; get in by whatever means, don’t rape, rob, murder, or blow things up and you’ve got nothing to worry about. And if you do get caught, you’ll be released and given work authorization. The new priorities have created the ultimate incentive to attract more illegal immigration.

This new policy isn’t about making us safer, and the new numbers don’t offer evidence that immigration enforcement has increased; actually quite the opposite. But the policy is being used as cover to enable President Obama to pull off his big trick which is granting backdoor amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.

Laws against entry without inspection, reentries, and overstaying a visa must be enforced regardless of whether other non-immigration crimes are committed. If not, then illegal immigration will grow and that is a problem even the present Houdini-in-Chief wouldn’t be able to make disappear.

Bob Dane is Communications Director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform.