According to a recent Houston Chronicle report, the Department of Homeland Security is reviewing "pending immigration cases and moving to dismiss those filed against suspected illegal immigrants who have no serious criminal records." Naturally, conservative media are outraged, claiming that this represents "backdoor amnesty for illegal aliens." This morning on Fox, Steve Doocy said:
DOOCY: Yeah, it looks like this could be a backdoor way toward amnesty for thousands of people. But what is ultimately the message here? Hey come on in, come on in, live in the country illegally because even if you are arrested, and the threat of deportation -- they're not going to do it if you don't have a criminal record.
Here are the facts that Fox didn't mention:
- DHS does not have the capacity to deport everyone who is found to be in the country illegally.
- DHS is prioritizing the removal of people with a criminal record who are a potential threat to public safety.
- DHS is deporting record numbers of unauthorized immigrants.
It's not complicated. There are limits on the number of people our immigration system is able to process and remove. Given the choice of whether to spend those limited resources on the removal of non-criminal immigrants or criminal immigrants, DHS wants to ensure that they're removing those who could be dangerous. This isn't a new idea. A GAO report written during the Bush Administration states that ICE officers prioritized "those who pose a threat to national security or public safety."
According to an analysis conducted by Syracuse's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, people who have been charged with immigration violations are waiting over a year on average for their case to be resolved in immigration court. Immigration attorney Raed Gonzalez reportedly said that dismissing some cases is necessary to help clear this backlog.
Conservative media criticizing this are basically saying that anything short of removing every person found to be in the country illegally is "amnesty." As is often the case, their debate on immigration exists in world that is not the one we live in. It's not constructive or informative. And it obscures the fact that while immigrants with criminal records are the priority, the federal government is still deporting hundreds of thousands of people who aside from their immigration violations, never broke a law and in no way threaten public safety, which directly contradicts Doocy's claim that they're not going to deport you "if you don't have a criminal record."
The Obama administration has removed more criminal immigrants from the U.S. in 2010 than any year under the Bush administration (and 2010 isn't over). DHS reportedly expects to deport around 400,000 people this year. Take a look at this chart of ICE removals: The government is deporting more people than ever and an increasing percentage of them have criminal records.
Does Fox really have a problem with this?
From the August 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends: