Conservative media have predictably seized on a US Citizenship and Immigration Services memo that outlines possible "administrative relief options" for immigration reform in the absence of Congressional action. Fox Nation has called it the "Smoking Gun Amnesty Memo." But while the right-wing media is shouting from the rooftops that this memo proves that the Obama administration is plotting to bypass Congress to grant "amnesty" to the millions of unauthorized immigrants currently in the United States, there's simply no evidence that the administration is planning to take that course.
The rest of the media should take into account the Obama administration's actual immigration policy in reporting on the paranoid claims of those stoking fears over a secret amnesty plan they are inferring from a discussion memo.
For one thing, nobody should report on this memo without noting that the Obama administration is deporting record numbers of unauthorized immigrants, which suggests that if they're looking to avoid deporting people, they've been failing miserably over the past 18 months. As the Washington Post reported, "removals reached a record high" in fiscal year 2009, and ICE "expects to deport about 400,000 people this fiscal year, nearly 10 percent above the Bush administration's 2008 total and 25 percent more than were deported in 2007."
Moreover, the administration has specifically rejected proposals to halt deportations for large groups of people. ABC News reported on June 15 that "[a]n outspoken group of undocumented immigrants, who have met twice with senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett to discuss the need for immigration reform, say the administration has rejected a request for an executive order to halt deportations of students who came to the U.S. illegally as young children." The article further reported:
Administration officials say Obama remains committed to comprehensive immigration reform, including relief for students like Matos and Roa, and may be unwilling to pursue an incremental legislative approach or what would likely be a controversial executive order so as not to compromise those efforts.
On July 1, Obama spoke about comprehensive immigration reform at American University and addressed those who suggest that the federal government "put an end to deportation until we have better laws." He said that such an approach "would be both unwise and unfair":
Our task then is to make our national laws actually work -- to shape a system that reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And that means being honest about the problem, and getting past the false debates that divide the country rather than bring it together.
For example, there are those in the immigrants' rights community who have argued passionately that we should simply provide those who are [here] illegally with legal status, or at least ignore the laws on the books and put an end to deportation until we have better laws. And often this argument is framed in moral terms: Why should we punish people who are just trying to earn a living?
I recognize the sense of compassion that drives this argument, but I believe such an indiscriminate approach would be both unwise and unfair. It would suggest to those thinking about coming here illegally that there will be no repercussions for such a decision. And this could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration. And it would also ignore the millions of people around the world who are waiting in line to come here legally.
Ultimately, our nation, like all nations, has the right and obligation to control its borders and set laws for residency and citizenship. And no matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable.
A month after Obama publicly denounced the idea, the right-wing media think he's on the verge of implementing it? Really?
In response to the memo, USCIS spokesman Christopher Bentley reportedly said that "As a matter of good government, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will discuss just about every issue that comes within the purview of the immigration system." Another DHS spokesman reportedly "said the memo was borne out of brainstorming sessions and that the ideas were first proposed after comprehensive immigration legislation, backed by then-President George W. Bush, failed in 2007." And DHS has repeatedly explained that deferred action "is implemented on a case-by-case basis, and DHS does not grant deferred action without a review of relevant facts. To be clear, DHS will not grant deferred action to the nation's entire illegal immigrant population."
A handful of Republican Senators have essentially said they don't trust DHS, without giving a shred of evidence to support their suspicions. Conservative media are trumpeting their claims, alleging that the DHS memo reveals a plan to grant amnesty through executive action. The Obama administration says they're not interested in doing any such thing.
My question is: When trying to discern Obama's immigration policy, will the media go to this memo? Or will they take a look at Obama's actual immigration policy?