From Slatest.Slate.com, Daniel Politi, 30 May 2011.
The White House is focusing on punishing those who hire illegal immigrants, rather than the workers themselves.
President Obama has mostly given up on the flashy, media-friendly raids on workplaces that were popular with his predecessor and often rounded up hundreds of illegal workers for deportation. Instead, he is choosing to focus more on punishing those who hire the illegal immigrants in the first place. As a result, even as the number of criminal cases against illegal immigrant workers declined, the number of employers facing problems with the law has been increasing, reports the New York Times.
The piece cites as an example the recent coordinated raid on 14 Chuy’s restaurants, where 42 illegal immigrants were caught but only one was charged with an unrelated crime while 13 were processed for immigration violations. Significantly, “the only criminal defendants were the owners … and an accountant,” details the Times.
The NYT story seems to be part of an effort by the White House to push back against those who criticize the president’s record on immigration at a time when he has launched an improbable bid for a two-pronged effort at immigration reform that includes border security as well as some sort of amnesty for those who qualify. And there have been no shortage of critics. On one side, Republicans criticize the administration for the declining number of arrests of illegal workers, insisting that should be a particular focus at a time of high unemployment. Yet the Obama administration insists it is carrying out more investigations than ever before, and issued record fines, showing how the issue is being tackled despite the lack of raids.
Republicans aren’t Obama’s only problem though. The president is also facing criticism from some of his closest Democratic allies on the issue, as the Miami Herald’s Andres Oppenheimer detailed in his column Saturday. Hispanic Democrats are increasingly saying that Obama hasn’t done enough on the issue, and besides his talk of fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, he hasn’t done enough to stop mass deportations. Indeed, Obama “is on track to deport more illegal immigrants than any U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower and ‘Operation Wetback’ in 1954,” columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. wrote earlier this month, noting that while 1 million people were removed from the country then, the Obama administration has “deported about 800,000 people in its first two years.” Hispanic lawmakers aren’t the only ones who have been criticizing the president on this issue. In an editorial earlier this month, the New York Times accused Obama of trying to have it both ways by talking “of supporting the hopes of the undocumented” while his “administration has been doubling down on the failed strategy of mass expulsion.”
Instead of kicking the can to Congress, which is a dead end since the White House knows Republicans will never give him the votes for any type of comprehensive immigration reform in the House, Democrats insist Obama should use more of his discretionary powers. At the very least he could delay the deportation of those who would qualify for the Dream Act, which would allow those who were brought to the United States as children to stay if they graduate high school and want to enter college or the military.