Sunday, February 3, 2013

Increased Deportation as a Means to Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

The Obama administration recently released a picture of President Obama skeet shooting. The photo (and President Obama admitting in the first place that he shoots skeet) would not have been revealed unless the administration believed it would benefit its push for gun control legislation. The tactic is tried and true. It serves as a means to neutralize the narrative from gun control opponents: Obama hates guns and will do everything in his power to curtail as many gun rights as he can.

Could Obama be employing a comparable tactic in his push for comprehensive immigration reform? For a number of years, Obama has drawn the ire of immigration reform advocates for the record breaking number of deportations carried out by immigration authorities. But now, as Obama seeks some of the most far-reaching reforms to immigration law in decades, could his enforcement actions over the last few years increase the likelihood that immigration opponents would be willing to sign on to the legislation? In other words, do the record breaking numbers of deportations help to neutralize the argument that Obama does not believe in immigration enforcement?

Granted, Obama has used his executive authority to provide immigration enforcement agencies with increased discretion when deciding whether to initiate or administratively close a deportation proceeding. The new found discretionary authority seems more geared toward the types of unauthorized immigrants the government seeks to deport rather than the numbers overall, since the deportation rate has held steady at around 400,000 each year. The prosecutorial discretion policy itself appears to have been a very shrewd political tactic in order to gain favor with Latino voters prior to the 2012 elections. (The fact that the timing took politics into consideration does not mean that President Obama disagrees with the merits underlying the policy.)

Obama has consistently been voicing his support for comprehensive immigration reform, yet he has not altered the quantity of individuals who end up getting deported. It certainly makes him look pro-enforcement, an important characteristic to be perceived as having when you are negotiating against staunch proponents of enforcement who are luke warm about any provision that sounds like amnesty.

For those who are in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, if you believe that Obama's enforcement actions could increase the likelihood of comprehensive immigration reform, could the consequences that increased enforcement have had on hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants (who have already been deported) be justified by the potential benefit comprehensive immigration reform may have for millions in the future?


1 comment:

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