Published on TheHill.com on June 24, 2014
The political fallout caused by the expected immigration of 90,000 children this year (52,000 so far) over the Mexican border completely recasts the immigration debate. No longer must Republicans hypothesize or may Democrats deny that amnesty catalyzes illegal immigration. The children of Central America have resolved that question by descending on our border demanding admission and anticipating the right to stay.
Nor can the administration maintain even a pretense of tightening border security in return for legalization of those already here. President Obama has foreclosed that option and squandered any credibility by repeatedly dangling legalization and an end to deportations. As the children of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have gotten the green light, Republicans come to realize that there will not be a border fence but a revolving door, if Obama has his way.
The 14 Senate Republicans who voted for an omnibus immigration bill relying on assurances that the border will be sealed must now realize that they have swallowed a total fiction. Obama has no intention of sealing anything.
Nor are the children wrong in thinking that they can get away with coming here and staying. In all of 2013, we deported 2,000 children, a handful compared to the 52,000 who have come here thus far in 2014.
Already, Democrats are pushing for legislation giving children free immigration lawyers, and estimates of the proportion that could be entitled to amnesty go as high as 40 percent. The 12-year-olds in Central America understand the real U.S. immigration policy a lot better than the White House does: Once they are here, they probably can stay. (And then bring their families.)
Before Obama stupidly lowered the likelihood of deportations and gave the impression that immigration was now the Latino equivalent of the Oklahoma Land Rush, there was a consensus in this country. The amendment introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) seemed to embody what Americans of both parties were willing to accept: Seal the border and then, gradually, begin legalizing those already here. Whether citizenship would follow remained a source of contention.
The consensus was based on Obama’s excellent record in his first term at sealing the border. Helped by a bad economy in the U.S., the outflow of immigrants began to equal or exceed the influx. Among those already here, Obama increased the rate of deportation from about 250,000 annually under former Presidents George W. Bush and Clinton to more than 400,000.
But, as he geared up for reelection, Obama’s need for Latino support led him to order the implementation of the Dream Act by an executive order, suspending eligible youth deportations.
As his second term has unfolded, Obama has cut deportations in half, virtually ended them for all but criminal immigrants, opened the possibility of amnesty for families of military and of Dreamers themselves, lowered employer fines and ordered border guards not to shoot.
These actions shattered the consensus that had begun to emerge and have doomed immigration reform.
But they have also set the cause of reform back years. No longer do Americans trust their government to enforce immigration laws, and they realize that the weaker the rules are, the more people will come.
This unexpected flood of children to the U.S. must undermine the faith of all but the most determined advocates of immigration reform. Obama’s policies have massively backfired.
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