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Obama Isn’t a Champion for Immigration Reform

The president's liberal supporters shouldn't pretend otherwise.

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Bio

December 14, 2009 - 12:00 am
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The Obama administration has been making some noise lately by suggesting that it intends to push for comprehensive immigration reform next spring — just not push too hard.

Instead of pressuring Congress to pass new laws to fix our broken immigration system — and it’s hard to find anyone on the right or the left who disputes that the system is broken — the administration seems most comfortable simply enforcing the laws we already have.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. As the son of a retired cop, I tend to approve of the concept of enforcing the law. That is, unless, of course, that’s the extent of your strategy to solve a complicated problem that doesn’t lend itself to simple solutions. You’ll recall that the “enforcement only” approach to immigration reform didn’t work out so well when Republicans in Congress tried it during the last flare-up of the immigration debate a few years ago.

In fact, ironically, Obama himself was a vocal critic of that approach. And, at the time, he was right to criticize it.

Just look at what happens along the U.S.-Mexico border. We round up and deport illegal immigrants to Mexico, and they come back before the paperwork has been processed. We build walls and fences on the border, and we only end up increasing the undocumented population in the United States by caging in those who are already here and preventing them from returning home because they think it will be too difficult to come back. We raid businesses that hire illegal immigrants but we only tend to have enough handcuffs for the immigrants, so we let the employers go free so they can employ again. And the cycle continues.

In fact, it’s telling that the best weapon we’ve found against illegal immigration is a faltering U.S. economy. In fact, it makes you question the return we’ve received on the billions of dollars we’ve spent on immigration enforcement for the last few decades.

So imagine the surprise when the president designated as his point person for achieving comprehensive immigration reform the nation’s chief law enforcement officer for immigration laws. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sits atop the pyramid that includes the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). For some reason, Obama has entrusted with the responsibility of finding a way for millions of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States the cabinet member who oversees the agency responsible for removing them.

Brilliant. And judging from some of her recent words and deeds, it seems that Napolitano is much more enthusiastic about removing than she is about retaining.

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