Debate Forum Topic, 8/30/11

U.S. immigration policy changed by Obama executive order

By Clay Bennett

Last week the Obama administration announced that it would exercise “prosecutorial discretion” by suspending deportation proceedings against many illegal immigrants who, according to the administration, “pose no threat to national security or public safety.” The new policy is expected to help thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as young children, graduated from high school and want to go on to college or to serve in the armed forces.

The White House and immigration officials indicated that this policy change will allow the administration to focus enforcement efforts on cases involving criminals and immigrants who have flagrantly violated immigration laws. Under the new policy, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano can suspend deportations on a case-by-case basis. The Obama administration said the rule changes are intended to refocus deportation resources on “public safety threats,” rather than on every individual who is in the country illegally.

This move by the administration has been widely cheered by immigration activists, who have been working for a decade to pass legislation known as the DREAM Act. That legislation, which was passed by the Democrat-controlled House last year, however, died in the Senate during last December’s lame-duck session. The DREAM Act would have provided conditional permanent residency to illegal immigrants who had not committed crimes and either obtained a college degree or served in the U.S. military. These pro-amnesty groups argued that the previous deportation rules had affected the elderly, victims of crime, college students and nearly lifelong U.S. residents, all of whom should not face the threat of deportation.

The critics of the president’s new policy argue that this new non-enforcement policy is a blatant attempt to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal aliens in this country. Republicans said the move was equivalent to bypassing Congress and unilaterally instituting an amnesty program. They also argue that the new policy undercuts American sovereignty at a time when the border with Mexico has become even more dangerous, necessitating even stronger immigration enforcement. Republicans also state that the new policy is pure politics and that, with an eye to the 2012 election, it is geared to win favor with the large Latino voting population, which had recently been vocal about their disappointment with the administration immigration efforts to date.

 

Forum Question of the Week:
Should the Obama administration be permitted to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in the enforcement of federal immigration laws?

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