New DHS policies are de facto amnesty; John Morton thinks ICE has enough money
The Department of Homeland Security - specifically their Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency headed by John Morton - has instituted new policies that amount to a form of a de facto amnesty. And, all of this has been done without anywhere near the outcry that would occur from an amnesty proposal in Congress. Granted, these policies don't include a "pathway to citizenship" and the other perks that would be included in comprehensive immigration reform. However, they'll let most illegal aliens off the hook for the indefinite future and - just like a real amnesty - that will probably encourage more people to come here illegally. The Obama administration probably considers this a stop-gap measure and after the next election they'll begin a push for a de jure amnesty.
* Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton ordered agency officials on Aug. 20 to begin dismissing deportation cases against people who haven't committed serious crimes and have credible immigration applications pending.
* A proposed directive from Morton posted on ICE's website for public comment last month would generally prohibit police from using misdemeanor traffic stops to send people to ICE. Traffic stops have led to increased deportations in recent years, according to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank whose research supports tighter enforcement.
The directive said exceptions would be made in certain cases, such as when immigrants have serious criminal records.
* ICE officers have been told to "exercise discretion" when deciding whether to detain "long-time lawful permanent residents, juveniles, the immediate family members of U.S. citizens, veterans, members of the armed forces and their families, and others with illnesses or special circumstances," Daniel Ragsdale, ICE executive associate director of management, testified July 1 in the administration's lawsuit to block Arizona's controversial immigration law. The law requires police officers to determine the immigration status of suspects stopped for another offense if there was a "reasonable suspicion" they are in the USA illegally. A U.S. district judge has held up the provision pending review.
* A draft memo from ICE's sister agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, to Morton discussed ways the administration could adjust regulations so certain groups, such as college students and the spouses of military personnel, could legalize their status or at least avoid deportation if Congress doesn't pass comprehensive immigration reform. USCIS rules on applications for visas, work permits and citizenship. USCIS spokesman Christopher Bentley said the memo was intended to stimulate brainstorming on how to legalize immigrants if new laws aren't passed.
If your question is what about the people who are not priorities for the agency, the answer is we're going to continue to enforce the law. We're not giving broad classes of people amnesty or a pass from law enforcement. But we are recognizing that, hey, we only have a limited ability to enforce the law in terms of resources and when we go about saying, 'How should we target enforcement resources?', we're going to focus on three areas overall. And those are criminal offenders, recent entrants and people who game the system.
And, instead of railing at Congress and demanding higher funding, he thinks they have all the money they need:
Our overall budget at the agency is at an all-time high. We are detaining large numbers of people. Our detention budget has not gone down. In fact, it's grown tremendously over the past couple of years... (Because of enormous deficits) there are hard choices that have to be wrestled with every day and ICE continues to be funded at a very high level by Congress.