[Marxism] Behind Obama's new stance on deportations

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jun 18 11:40:30 MDT 2012

NY Times June 17, 2012
After Chorus of Protest, New Tune on Deportations

President Obama decided last week on a major policy shift to stop 
deportations of young illegal immigrants after administration 
officials saw that he was losing the initiative to Republicans on 
an issue he had long championed and that he was alienating the 
Latino voters who may be pivotal to his re-election bid.

In recent weeks, the White House faced intense pressure from some 
of its closest allies — their voices often raised in frustration — 
to provide some relief for immigrant communities. The urging came 
from Harry Reid of Nevada and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the 
top two Democrats in the Senate, and the Hispanic caucus in the 
House of Representatives, as well as Latino and immigrant leaders 
across the country.

Bleak figures reported early this month by the Department of 
Homeland Security showed that a yearlong program designed to shift 
enforcement away from illegal immigrants who pose no security risk 
was not producing results, with only about 500 young students 
nationwide spared from deportation.

And last week, students without immigration papers started a 
campaign of sit-ins and hunger strikes at Obama campaign offices 
in more than a dozen cities, saying that despite his promises, the 
president was continuing to deport immigrants like them.

After three years of record deportation numbers and cautious moves 
on other immigration policies, Mr. Obama finally used his 
executive authority in a sweeping way that surprised even his 
supporters, ending deportations for at least 800,000 immigrants 
who were brought to the United States illegally when they were 

The announcement on Friday of the new policy prompted a wave of 
elation among illegal immigrant students, and praise and sighs of 
relief from Democrats and Latino leaders. Angry Republicans 
accused Mr. Obama of overstepping his legal bounds to avoid 
consulting with Congress and started to regroup, recognizing that 
the president had regained his momentum on immigration.

An important change, administration officials said, came from the 
Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, who approached the 
White House in mid-May with a plan to use existing laws to lift 
the threat of deportation for large numbers of illegal immigrant 

After pressing tough enforcement since the beginning of the 
administration, Ms. Napolitano had been increasingly criticized by 
Latino and immigrant advocates who said she seemed to be thwarting 
the president’s policies. Since his first campaign in 2008, Mr. 
Obama had pledged his support for legislation known as the Dream 
Act, a proposal before Congress that would provide a path to legal 
status for illegal immigrant students.

Ms. Napolitano’s shift helped ease rising impatience at the White 
House with her department. A big stumbling block, White House 
officials said, was resistance from career staff members and 
enforcement agents at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to a 
policy adopted a year ago. It required them to use prosecutorial 
discretion in picking and choosing among illegal immigrants facing 
deportation. It was the first time immigration officers had been 
asked to make such judgments as a regular practice.

The National ICE Council, a union that represents deportation 
agents, outspokenly questioned the policy, saying that its members 
had not been consulted and that they faced serious risks in 
distinguishing among immigrants who had violated the law.

White House officials were dismayed by the results of a review, 
initiated in November, of more than 411,000 deportation cases 
before the nation’s immigration courts. By this month, prosecutors 
had halted the deportation of only 593 illegal immigrant students.

“Everyone was surprised by how modest the results were,” said a 
senior White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

At the same time, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican 
whose star is rapidly rising in his party, was close to 
introducing his own bill to help illegal immigrant students by 
giving them a temporary status, something quite similar to what 
White House officials had in mind. They feared Mr. Rubio’s 
proposal would pre-empt the president, making it appear he did not 
want to work with Republicans.

The White House was also awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court, 
expected any day, on the administration’s lawsuit against Arizona 
over a tough state immigration enforcement law. Campaign officials 
feared an adverse decision could leave Mr. Obama empty-handed when 
he tried to mobilize Latino voters for the November election.

A big concern for Mr. Obama, White House officials said, was 
whether he had legal authority to offer relief to so many 
immigrants. In recent weeks, the White House counsel, Kathryn 
Ruemmler, and Homeland Security lawyers pored over the law and 
concluded they were on firm ground. The main point, the officials 
said, was that the policy would have to be carried out case by 
case — meaning the workload for the immigration bureaucracy would 
be huge.

The White House was less concerned about whether it would be 
circumventing Congress and enraging Republicans. “Look, every time 
we sneeze in the direction of an immigrant, someone says it’s 
amnesty,” the official said.

Under the policy, officials are to exercise discretion in 
deferring deportations of immigrants who qualify for two years. A 
grant of deferred action, as it is formally known, allows 
immigrants to apply for work permits. To be eligible, they must be 
30 or younger and have come to the United States before they were 
16. They must be in school or high school graduates or military 
veterans, with no criminal records.

Mr. Obama was hearing often from exasperated Democratic lawmakers. 
Senator Durbin, who first introduced the Dream Act 11 years ago, 
said he advised the president recently that he would not be able 
to muster enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill before the 
November election. In a vote in late 2010, the Dream Act was 
blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

“Meanwhile,” Mr. Durbin said, “we were getting calls every week 
saying that young people were being deported. We would jump in and 
save them. But there was anger and uncertainty and fear among them.”

Mr. Durbin said he had urged Mr. Obama to “to do something much 
more sweeping.” Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a leading 
Hispanic Democrat, also prodded the White House.

The Democratic leaders’ message found a sympathetic hearing from 
Cecilia Muñoz, a former immigration reform advocate who is a 
senior White House adviser to Mr. Obama.

In the end, the policy shift came quickly, White House officials 
said, with Mr. Obama making his choice early last week, leaving 
officials scrambling to prepare the logistics in time for his 
announcement on Friday.

The White House agreed that Ms. Napolitano would make the initial 
statements. Later Mr. Obama went before the news cameras in the 
White House Rose Garden.

“As long as I’m president, I will not give up on this issue,” Mr. 
Obama vowed, calling it “the right thing to do.”

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