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Amnesty Or Deportation For Illegals?

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An aspiring migrant from Mexico peers into the U.S. at the Tijuana-San Diego border. The crosses represent the deaths of failed attempts. Image by Tomas Catelazo and used under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
The Obama White House Might Be Going On The Offensive Over Illegal Immigration



By John Monahan
Special for Modern Times Magazine

Aug. 31, 2011 — In 2010, republicans seized on the defining debate of the time — illegal immigration — and rode that wave into a plethora of electoral victories.

As the 2012 election cycle starts to heat up, it looks like immigration issues will again be a driving force in the debate — as well as that economy thing, of course. But this time, it seems democrats are trying to seize the argument from the GOP.

Less than two weeks ago, Cecilia Munoz, President Obama’s director of intergovernmental affairs, shepherded the announcement that deportations of illegal immigrants would be prioritized. Those who had been convicted of crimes would be the first to go. And, since funds are limited — remember that huge budget deficit — those illegal immigrants which are working hard and thriving will not be a priority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“There are more than 10 million people who are in the U.S. illegally; it’s clear that we can’t deport such a large number. So the Administration has developed a strategy to make sure we use those resources in a way that puts public safety and national security first. If you were running a law enforcement agency anywhere in the world, you would target those who pose the greatest harm before those who do not. Our immigration enforcement work is focused the same way. Under the President’s direction, for the first time ever the Department of Homeland Security has prioritized the removal of people who have been convicted of crimes in the United States.  And they have succeeded; in 2010 DHS removed 79,000 more people who had been convicted of a crime compared to 2008,” Munoz posted on the White House website. “Today, they announced that they are strengthening their ability to target criminals even further by making sure they are not focusing our resources on deporting people who are low priorities for deportation. This includes individuals such as young people who were brought to this country as small children, and who know no other home. It also includes individuals such as military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel. It makes no sense to spend our enforcement resources on these low-priority cases when they could be used with more impact on others, including individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes.”

Read Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new guidelines

Republicans jumped on the plan, calling it amnesty and saying that Obama is ignoring the laws of the land in order to keep illegal immigrants in the U.S.

"Congress writes the laws and the executive branch enforces them," said Rep. Steve King, republican from Iowa. "For the president to have his subordinates declare and announce they're not going to enforce the law is de facto amnesty. It's essentially a de facto repealing of immigration laws; it's a lawless decision, and I am very offended by it — and we must take action."

As usual, the truth lies not on one side or the other somewhere in between the two political ideologies. Democrats don’t want a mass deportation. That is clear. What is also clear is that there is a growing faction of the GOP that would be glad to see a mass deportation taking place.

But those same folks that want a mass deportation, and the end of birthright citizenship as King does, also want to cut federal spending in order to balance the federal budget. Deporting all of the more than 10 million illegal immigrants would cost in excess of $100 billion — that’s billion with a ‘b.’

Part of the tremendous cost is in rooting out those illegals who are using fraudulent social security numbers and birth certificates. Illegal aliens who have lived here for years are not working cash jobs only. They are the No. 1 purveyors of identity theft so they can get paid by companies as legal workers. Finding 10 to 20 million illegals is not as easy as pulling up to a corner in the ‘right’ neighborhood in town and grabbing day laborers, no matter what some might say. Most illegal aliens have purchased identities that allow them to work virtually anywhere.

Even if all illegal immigrants were deported, it is not a sure thing that it would save the country any money in health cost or social programs. There might be some superficial savings, but very few economists that have analyzed this think it would help the economy or the federal budget for that matter. After all, most illegals in this country still pay taxes. Otherwise, their employers would not be able to say that they didn’t know they weren’t legal.

So the math adds up to $100 billion to deport all illegals and then the loss of billions more in tax revenue. How is that a sound economic policy for a country mired in debt?

But deporting 10 to 20 million people is more than just about money. It is also about our national security. Most illegal immigrants come from Latin America and have fled those countries because of low wages and minimal opportunity. Injecting millions back into the work force of those countries could serve to further destabilize questionable governments and fragile economic systems which would put us at more at risk. Just imagine a Latin America with more unemployment.

It is also a dangerous road to tread. The only time in history that millions of people have been plucked from a country and relocated took place in Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s. No one is saying that those who seek deportation are seeking anything as nefarious as “the final solution” but regardless, history would surely judge it poorly.

Economically, morally and politically, deportation is a bad idea. So, then where does that leave the country? We have millions living here who are not citizens.

That is the question facing the president and Congress. But it seems that Obama has decided to make it a factor in the 2012 political cycle as part of his greater plan to identify the hypocrisies of the right: namely that while they clamor for fiscal restraint, they want to spend whatever it takes on things like immigration that do nothing but bloat the deficit and put our national security at risk.

John Monahan is a freelance writer living in Connecticut.
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