Obama Isn't a Champion for Immigration Reform

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.

There are still worksite raids being carried out. This, despite opposition from immigrant rights groups and the fact that Obama said during the presidential campaign that ICE agents were "terrorizing" families with such raids. Supposedly, the agency is paying more attention to employers, but that doesn't mean that it is overlooking illegal immigrants. They're still being apprehended just as they always have been. They're still being processed. And they're still being deported.

Personally, I'm glad that's the case. And I'm also glad the raids are continuing. Just because I support comprehensive immigration reform that would allow some illegal immigrants to legally remain in the United States provided they met certain conditions doesn't mean I think we should suspend all enforcement activities. If we did that, how would we deal with those who didn't meet the conditions?

Besides, I'm not the one in a pickle. Obama's Latino supporters have a lot invested in this narrative they've created

out of whole cloth that he'll be a champion for immigration reform.

Nothing that he has done up to now suggests that to be true. All the left has gotten is pushed back deadlines and empty promises.

I never bought that line about Obama championing immigration reform, and so I'm not among the disillusioned.

During a recent speech to the Center for American Progress, Napolitano teased the issue once more. She defined immigration reform as a "three-legged stool" -- better enforcement, clearer pathways for future legal immigrants, and "a firm but fair way to deal with (illegal immigrants) who are already here."

Enforcement is easy. But Napolitano doesn't seem all that eager to build the other two legs of the stool.

"When Congress is ready to act," Napolitano said, "we will be ready to support them."

That's it? And what if Congress is never ready? On Tuesday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is expected to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The 10-point plan provides for enforcement but also gives illegal immigrants a pathway to earned legalization, promotes integration of immigrants, and tries to manage the future

flow of immigrants by protecting American workers from having to compete with foreign workers. But the debate is just starting. And there is no guarantee that Gutierrez can even convince fellow Democrats to go along with his reform plan, let alone Republicans.

What the Obama administration is offering the country with regard to immigration reform isn't leadership. And Obama's liberal supporters shouldn't pretend otherwise. After all, the left would do well to remember that devotion is one thing. Delusion is another.