US Catholic Faith in Real Life

White House immigration meeting yields little progress

By Father Tom Joyce, CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

President Barack Obama called business, community, political, and religious leaders to the White House for a consultation on immigration last week. He had no new ideas, but some are pressing him to curb deportations administratively since this congress is not likely to take up immigration reform. He begged off doing anything by executive order and asked the attendees to press congress. Republicans in Congress quickly scoffed at the meeting.

Pressure is growing from the Hispanic community and many Democrats for the president to act without Congress, according to the New York Times. He has wide discretion in administering the laws as his shift in emphasis on factory raids to employer audits indicate.

But while there have been fewer raids, immigrants over the last two years have been deported at record levels of about a 1,000 a day. This aggressive enforcement is justified by the administration as ferreting out criminals and scofflaws, those who reentered the country after a previous deportation. Still more than half those being deported neither have criminal records nor are scofflaws.

The president has the power to stay deportation for humanitarian reasons. During the dirty wars in Central America during the 1970s and 1980s, refugees were “paroled,” allowed to stay, until the political situations stabilized in those countries. Similarly Obama suspended deportation of Haitians after the devastating earthquake.

Now activists are urging that the parolee status be extend to undocumented students who would have been eligible for the DREAM Act, for parents of U.S. citizens, and for any close relative of an American citizen who is trying to regularize his/her status. These latter must now leave the country while the slow paced bureaucratic process runs its course.

There are an estimate 4 million U.S. citizen children one of whose parents is undocumented. Some even call for a moratorium on the deportation of non-criminal undocumented until Congress does something about our oft-bemoaned “broken immigration system.”  

It’s unlikely this Congress will do anything about immigration. Both Obama and the Republicans pledge to act only after the “borders are secure.” But the borders are already as secure as they get.

Arrests for unauthorized entry are down by two-thirds over the last decade. This is the result of new fences, beefed-up patrols, and the Great Recession. There’s so little activity at the once busy Yuma, Arizona crossing, the Los Angeles Times reports, that border patrol guards a being caught napping like air traffic controllers.

Republicans profess to be open to “reform” but anything smacking of ‘amnesty” will be dead-on-arrival in the House. Republican Congressman Dan Lungren (CA) who had sat in on recent hearing on the AgJobs Bill—an agreement worked out between growers and the United Farm Workers Union to reform the agricultural guest worker program—sees no hope for it, because it would provide a path to citizenship, which the GOP considers back-door amnesty (see Washington Post).

Still Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez is traveling the country to drum up support for a moratorium on deportation, which he will introduce as a law.