Barack Obama might tell Hispanic voters that Republican opponents of "comprehensive immigration reform" are "enemies" who deserve to be punished. His Justice Department might have sued Arizona. His appointees in the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may circulate memos talking about how to implement amnesty administratively if Congress won't act. Unionized customs officers and border patrol agents may protest that immigration laws are going unenforced.
Don't let any of that fool you, however: Barack Obama is tough on illegal immigration. The proof? He has presided over a record number of deportations. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and irritated liberal bloggers reported that more illegal immigrants have been removed from the country under Obama than ever before. "When the secretary tells you that the numbers are at an all-time high, that's straight, on the merits, no cooking of the books," John Morton, Obama's head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), boasted at an October press conference.
In Monday's Washington Post, Andrew Becker of the Center for Investigative Reporting demonstrated that some books were indeed cooked in the process of attaining this record. (The Post's headline writers preferred the phrase "unusual methods.") It was reminiscent of the White House's number of jobs "created or saved" by the stimulus, with some PBS fundraising marathon tactics thrown in for good measure.
Brecker reports that in order to reach the 392,862-deportation finish line, ICE included more than 19,000 illegals who had departed in the previous fiscal year. They also extended a Mexican repatriation program by an additional five weeks in order to be able to count 6,500 exits that "would normally have been tallied by the U.S. Border Patrol."
Worst of all, when it looked like immigration authorities were going to fall short of the goal, they began to encourage immigrants to leave through "voluntary return." This speedy process leaves no mark on the individual's immigration track record, leaving them eligible to apply for legal residence or travel to the United States later.
Some of the people so processed would have normally gone before an immigration judge to contest charges they had committed offenses like drunk driving, domestic violence, and misdemeanor assault -- and now there will be no record. Once the deportation record was broken, this unusual use of voluntary return was reportedly halted.
An ICE employee in Louisiana told Brecker that over a two-week period, he saw 100 to 150 Mexican nationals, some of whom had multiple drunk driving convictions, reassigned to voluntary return. Others reported similar numbers. Amnesty through enforcement!
"Without these efforts and the more than 25,000 deportations that came with them," Brecker reported, "the agency would not have topped last year's record level of 389,834, current and former ICE employees and officials said." Feel better now?
An acting ICE assistant director sent emails more appropriate for a telethon than serious enforcement of the country's immigration laws: "We are just 1061 shy of 390,000. However, we still get to count closed cases through Monday, October 4th so… keep having your folks concentrate on closing those cases."
This kind of chicanery isn't unique to the Obama administration -- one former field office director is quoted as saying similar things happened under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But some of the specific revelations make the White House's overall immigration posture even harder to swallow.
The Obama immigration team keeps rebutting evidence of its pro-amnesty leanings -- buttressed by leaked e-mails and memos -- by saying the statistics show enforcement proceeding normally. There will be no amnesties, backdoor or otherwise. Just a tough but fair approach to enforcing the law.
Andrew Brecker's report is just the latest reason to suspect politics is foremost on their minds.