The Spectacle Blog

Stealth Amnesty, Minus the Stealth

By on 4.4.11 | 4:26PM

Last year, there were several leaked memos showing that people inside Obama administration, within both the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security, were tossing around ideas for a backdoor amnesty. Described in bureaucrat-speak as "administrative alternatives to comprehensive immigration reform," the idea was to have immigration officials use the discretion they have reserved for hardship cases to effectively amnesty certain subsets of illegal immigrants, such as those who would have benefited from the DREAM Act. (That would be the same DREAM Act Congress has repeatedly failed to pass.)

When the news broke we were all assured at the time that these were just internal deliberations, perhaps a bureaucratic equivalent of a late-night bull session in the dorm. As it happens, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano seems to have gotten the amnesty memos. The Washington Times reported Friday:

Wading into an increasingly thorny debate, Miss Napolitano said she cannot unilaterally ignore deportations laws for broad groups of illegal immigrants, but said students and young adults who would have been legalized had last year's "Dream Act" legislation passed Congress are not a chief target of federal authorities.

"I will say, and can say, that you know what? They are not, that group, if they truly meet all those criteria, and we see very few of them actually in the immigration system, if they truly meet those [criteria], they're not the priority," the secretary said at an event sponsored by NDN, a progressive think tank and advocacy group, on the future of the nation's border policies.

In my last column on this issue, I quoted a DHS spokesman defending the Obama adminstration's immigration enforcement record and offering this underwhelming assurance: "DHS will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation's illegal immigrant population." Peachy! But the members of that population who might have been legalized by the DREAM Act? Well, at the very least they are not an enforcement priority. Judicial Watch sued last week to get DHS to release its records of administrative amnesty-related discussions.

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