Obama's Immigration Enforcement Policy in Limbo

What exactly is the policy of the Department of Homeland Security regarding work-site immigration raids?

No one knows for sure. It is very much a work in progress. That is the takeaway from recent events and a recent visit that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano paid to the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

This much we do know: Napolitano is not happy with the policy she inherited from the Bush administration. That policy basically consists of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raiding workplaces, rounding up illegal immigrants wholesale, and deporting them to their home countries while letting employers off scot-free. Napolitano wants to target employers and focus most of the enforcement to immigrant criminals -- that is, those who may have broken a local or state law in addition to entering the country illegally. And, according to a recent article in the Washington Post, until the specifics of a new policy are hammered out, the secretary has put the brakes on further raids.

"Sending 40 or 50 agents in with full gear to pick up a dozen or two dozen illegal immigrants at a work site, to me is not the best and most effective use of our immigration enforcement abilities," Napolitano told the editorial board. "And particularly when there's no strategy to get the actual employer who's making money off of this."

So far, so good. Napolitano is right to go after employers. It was shameful that the Bush administration turned a blind eye to bosses while busting the workers. The problem is that Napolitano hasn't been clear about what exactly is going to happen if and when the raids resume. The big question is this: what's going to happen to the ordinary workers, those who aren't wanted for violating some other law?