The Spectacle Blog

Obama and Deportations

By on 8.2.10 | 3:07PM

Today on the main site I report on how the USCIS amnesty memo doesn't differ in spirit from the Obama administration's actual approach to immigration enforcement. But I note in the column that some might ask: If the administration is so anti-enforcement, why are deportations up?

One reason is the Secure Communities program. Conceived in 2007 when the Bush administration finally realized its lack of enforcement was contributing to the unpopularity of "comprehensive immigration reform," it is a DHS initiative to identify illegal aliens already in jail or arrested on other offenses. The Obama administration has continued it and the program has helped the federal government locate and deport thousands of criminal aliens.

There's nothing wrong with Secure Communities as far as it goes. In fact, it is compatible with the federal-state partnerships on immigration enforcement envisioned by the Arizona immigration law (that's why the more extreme open borders types don't like it). The problem is that it is being used to avoid arresting illegal immigrants who don't commit other offenses. That is inadequate to reduce illegal immigration into the United States because it doesn't really address the main incentives to come here illegally; it is also insufficient to reduce the existing illegal population, because it leaves most illegal immigrants alone.

That's why the Obama administration can support Secure Communities while at the same time arguing that Arizona SB 1070 conflicts with federal law: by emphasizing immigration law violations, Arizona is going against the Obama administration's enforcement priorities. And in the short term, the administration can point to rising deportations as evidence that it is enforcing the law while actually taking a non-enforcement posture toward the vast majority of illegal immigrants.

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