US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Inconsistent on immigration

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

As the White House resists calls to place a moratorium on deportations of non-criminals, the administration has revealed itself to be inconsistent on the issue.  

President Barack Obama had characterized increased enforcement and deportations over the last two years as a drive after “the criminal element,” but Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s own figures indicated that most of those deportees were non-criminal. Even victims of crimes are ending up in deportation proceedings. The Los Angeles Times tells of woman, long subjected to cruel beatings by the man she was living with, who finally called 911, only to be turned over to ICE by the San Jose police because she was undocumented.

The New York Times reports that the administration and ICE may be softening their enforcement to allow just some undocumented to stay temporarily. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) and his deputy Dick Durbin (D, IL) put pressure on Obama to allow the undocumented students that might have benefited by the Dream Act to stay. ICE suspended deportation hearings of young lady in Irving, Texas and allowed her to continue her education. There was no deadline on her stay, and her parents and siblings, also undocumented, are applying for a similar stay. The story mentions a similar action for a student in Connecticut, who had the intervention of Senator Richard Blumenthal (D, CT). ICE officials in central Florida are reported to have asked immigration lawyers to bring forward cases of those in deportation proceeding with the understanding that, if they create no danger, they may be authorized to stay and even work.

In many ways these reports indicate to what extent immigration laws are being enforced unequally throughout the country. Why? It’s probably a combination of factors.

The case of the San Jose woman is probably helped, even though she was a scofflaw, because immigration courts handle domestic abuse cases with some sympathy. The students had powerful advocates who cover costs of fighting deportation, and a majority of Senators would have voted for the Dream Act. If it were the case of gang bangers from East L.A., ICE and the courts would show no mercy—even if they committed no crime.

This uneven enforcement begs for clear guidelines from the administration. A declaration of a moratorium until Congress clears up the mess of our broken immigration laws will help. Some categories of the undocumented that should be given the benefit of a moratorium can be easily identified: those long here, those with U.S. citizens in the family, the “Dreamers” (students brought here when young), victims of crimes like the San Jose abused woman. Law already protects from deportation those who can show they would be subject to persecution or harm because of the turmoil in their native lands, though the drug wars’ turmoil in Mexico doesn’t seem to qualify.

The Obama administration is quite satisfied with the ambiguity of his deportation policy. He has big numbers to wave before those hostile to immigrants and yet pose of compassion for their advocates. His compassion, like the undocumented, seems to in the shadows.