The Constitution requires the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” but Barack Obama believes that the Constitution doesn’t apply to him. He takes the position–unprecedented in our history, to my knowledge–that he need only enforce the laws with which he agrees. Most notably, his administration has refused to enforce major elements of our immigration laws.
But for some liberals, Obama’s repudiation of the immigration laws hasn’t gone far enough. One might expect that a long-time Congresswoman like Nancy Pelosi would expect the president to enforce the laws that are passed by her own House of Representatives, but no: Pelosi has joined the chorus that is now calling on President Obama to order a stop to all deportations of illegal aliens. This would amount to a nullification of our immigration laws. A Republican staffer on the Senate Budget Committee emailed this commentary on the no-deportation effort:
Speaker Pelosi has now joined the ranks of amnesty activists demanding a halt to all removals of immigration violators from the country—or, put less diplomatically, nullification of immigration law. …
This nullification argument has been primarily grounded in phony deportation statistics. Claims of record deportations have been debunked in federal court and by the union representing ICE officers. (One of the principal means by which the statistics are manipulated is by improperly counting border apprehensions and returns as ICE removals; ICE removals have actually plummeted about 20 percent from ’11 to ‘12, with another expected 20 percent drop this year.) …
But setting the record straight on removals also risks missing the more obvious point. Accepting the “halt all removals” rationale means inviting each of the 60 million people who visit the U.S. each year to forge some documents, crib a Social Security number, and stay indefinitely. After all, even under current administrative directives, such an individual would not satisfy conditions for removal as an “administration priority” and, once said person put down roots, he or she would qualify for official relief from removal (and maybe even become the beneficiary of, or participate in, a future amnesty protest). Indeed, President Obama’s heckler, himself a visa overstay, was an invited guest of the White House.
Then there is the question of who is being removed. Setting aside the inflated removal aggregates, it is important to consider ICE’s own data from 2012. As reported by USA Today: “96% [of those removed according to ICE records] fell into the agency’s enforcement priority definition, which covers criminals, threats to national security and repeat violators of immigration laws.” In other words, because the Administration has determined that violating immigration law is generally no longer sufficient grounds for being placed into removal proceedings—even in conjunction with “minor” criminal convictions—halting removals would also necessarily mean releasing high-risk individuals.
Immigration expert Jessica Vaughan recently illustrated this very point: the subjects of a recent “no removals” protest in California had serious criminal records, including a charge for sexual abuse.
It is crucial to note, however, that the release of high-risk individuals is already occurring quite frequently. Chris Crane, president of the ICE Council, recently wrote that “every day, dangerous and violent criminal aliens are released back into American communities.” Crane has also described the experiences of officers applying the Administration’s DREAM orders to individuals in prisons and jails. [Note: ICE officers have unsuccessfully requested a meeting with President Obama for more than a year—so that the administration would not be hearing almost exclusively from CEOs and amnesty activists].
The painful irony is that the Administration’s catch-and-release policy—explained as an effort to focus removals on only the top shelf priority cases—often means waiting until an illegal alien commits a violent offense and receives a felony criminal conviction before taking steps to remove that alien from the country. That’s too late for the innocent victims.
One last thought: Democrats accused House Republicans of “hostage taking” and “terrorism” when the House refused, for a while, to appropriate money to continue implementing Obamacare. But isn’t what Barack Obama is doing on immigration a lot more like “hostage taking”? Obama is saying, since you won’t enact immigration legislation of the sort I want, I refuse to enforce the laws we already have. He is holding enforcement of immigration laws hostage in an effort to force Congress to give him the legislation he prefers. But of course, Congress has no constitutional duty to pass laws that the president wants, while the president does have a constitutional duty to execute the laws that are on the books.