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Obama’s Doublespeak on Immigration

The administration’s immigration policy is all about the numbers.

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Bio

June 24, 2011 - 12:00 am

The Obama administration has been caught lying again. Not surprisingly, it has to do with a topic about which Obama can’t seem to tell the truth: immigration.

One of the main reasons for this is that Obama has a tough balancing act — pretending (on stage) to be more compassionate on the issue than Republicans while (behind the curtain) he tries to be tougher than any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower deported more than 1 million people in 1954′s notorious “Operation Wetback.”

Striking that balance is how Obama goes about pandering to two groups at once: Hispanics who want comprehensive immigration reform and an end to the demonizing of immigrants along with working-class whites and African-Americans who feel that they’ll never be able to compete with illegal immigrants for jobs and insist they shouldn’t have to try.

Now for the lies. You’ll recall that, in May, Obama traveled to El Paso in the first Hispanic outreach effort of the 2012 re-election campaign, in an attempt to convince a mostly Hispanic audience of at least two things: that his administration was “focusing (our) limited resources on violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income” and that it was “also going after employers who knowingly exploit people and break the law” and not just focusing on removing illegal immigrants.

Both of these lines have been picked up and parroted by the mainstream media and Hispanic advocates. And it’s easy to see why. No administration — not even a Democratic one — can get away with not enforcing immigration laws. But, according to polls, the Left is less opposed to the idea of deporting criminal aliens than it is illegal immigrants who are here to work at jobs that Americans won’t do. It also likes the idea of government going after employers instead of always settling for the low-hanging fruit of simply rounding up illegal immigrants.

Here’s the problem: It turns out that neither of these narratives is true.

Look at what happened recently in Ft. Morgan, CO, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted a raid on Wildcat Dairy. An estimated 89 percent of employees weren’t authorized to work in the United States. This figure won’t surprise anyone familiar with dairies, where the jobs are particularly difficult and unpleasant. Only 11 people were arrested in the raid, although authorities are still seeking nine additional workers. Still, the operation has panicked the immigrant community. Workers at other dairies are afraid to report to their jobs.

Damaris Cooksey, a volunteer for the Fort Morgan-based Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, told reporters that the raid contradicts Obama administration claims that ICE is focusing on criminal aliens.

“These aren’t people who’ve been convicted of grand larceny or some serious crime,” she insisted. “They’re not selling drugs or committing robberies. They’re working.”

Also, contrary to the administration’s claim that it’s going after employers, those who operated the dairy weren’t cited for wrongdoing by authorities, let alone arrested.

I’m glad Cooksey has figured out that she and other immigrant advocates have been hoodwinked. But this shouldn’t have come as such a surprise.

Obama’s assurances could never have been true because his administration’s immigration policy is all about the numbers. Being able to brag about deporting 1 million illegal immigrants (a goal the administration is on track to meet by Labor Day) is better than claiming the administration has only removed half that number.

And with only an estimated 150,000-200,000 criminal aliens sitting in the nation’s jails and prisons, the administration can’t get to the 1 million figure by relying on that population alone.

Furthermore, officials will never be able to increase the number of deportations by only focusing on employers; they have to continue to round up the illegal immigrants being employed. Whether they do this through workplace raids or by relying on the force multiplier of using local police as surrogates under programs like Secure Communities, which requires local police departments to submit to federal officials the fingerprints of suspected illegal immigrants apprehended for other crimes, the end game is the same: to rack up as many deportations as possible.

Don’t misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with that. Illegal immigrants should be deported. That’s not the issue. The issue is veracity and demagoguery. The problem isn’t what the Obama administration is doing. It’s that officials — including Obama himself — won’t admit to what they’re doing. How can they when they’re so busy trying to portray themselves as a kinder and gentler alternative to Republicans — with little evidence to back that up?

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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