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New Deportation Policy Less than It Appears

Not "silent amnesty." Just politics as usual.

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Bio

August 27, 2011 - 12:00 am
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So, here is where we’ve arrived: The Obama administration is doing pretty much what the president claimed he didn’t have the power to do and stopping the deportation of people who the president claimed weren’t being deported in the first place.

Confused? You’re not the only one.

The rightwingers are so disoriented that they don’t know which way is up. They say this new policy is a backdoor amnesty, but the administration hasn’t promised to set anyone free — only to review cases already in the queue. Besides, the critics said the same thing — prematurely it turned out — about a pair of governmental memos that simply explored administrative remedies to deportation. They looked foolish then, and they look foolish now.

Ironically, the same is true of liberals and immigration activists who are applauding the new policy as some major breakthrough. Part of that is desperation; the Obama administration has not been kind to the immigrant community or those who champion it. But part is a desire to claim credit for months of pressuring the administration to do the right thing — efforts that might now have paid off in the form of a reasonable new policy.

Here are the facts: The Obama administration has — in order to appear tough for voters  — deported many people that, in previous administrations, would never have been removed. People like battered wives who called the police to report their spouses  — and wound up being fingerprinted, handed over to immigration officials, and cleared for deportation. Or the ice cream vendor in Los Angeles who was arrested for selling frozen treats without a permit — and wound up being fingerprinted, handed over to immigration officials, and cleared for deportation.

Should Americans now be grateful that the administration is trying to correct some of its own excesses and mistakes? We’ll have to wait and see how the new policy is implemented and what good it does in the name of fairness — to repair some of the bad that has already been done in the name of politics.

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Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune, a nationally syndicated columnist, a frequent lecturer, and a regular contributor to CNN.com.
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