[Marxism] Behind Obama's new stance on deportations
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
By JULIA PRESTON and HELENE COOPER
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
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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