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Wither Credibility?

author Published by Jeremy Beck

A recent story in the New York Times, “Deportations Continue Despite U.S. Review of Backlog,” reported that DHS officials expect to suspend the deportation orders of at least 20,600 people by the end of 2012. In one striking sentence, the story depicts a president caught between his obligation to enforce the law and his desire to change law: “The court review is the administration’s most important effort to ease the impact on immigrant communities of tough enforcement by Mr. Obama.”

Our immigration laws have no credibility if the man whose responsibility it is to uphold them, President Obama, is at war with himself over how and whether to do so.

Type “immigration” and “credibility” into Google and the top result is the last bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by the late Rep. Barbara Jordan (whose face graces our homepage) during the Clinton administration. The commission’s first interim report focused on restoring credibility to the immigration system by controlling illegal immigration. Jordan testified before Congress in 1995 to report the commission’s progress.

The commission outlined an 8-point strategy:

To make distinction between those who obey the law, and those who violate it;
Worksite enforcement;
To make illegal aliens ineligible for public benefits;
Emergency management;
Reliable data;
Attacking root causes of illegal immigration in sending countries; and
Border management.

In the fourth point, Jordan summed up her commission’s findings: “Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave. The top priorities for detention and removal, of course, are criminal aliens. But for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process.”

Seventeen years later, it is clear that Jordan’s recommendations are ancient history, as an an unnamed Department of Homeland Security official told the Times, “At the end of the day we are going to say to more than 20,000 people: ‘We will not deport you.’ That is a very significant thing.”

“Significant,” indeed. If Jordan’s definition of a credible system no longer applies, what has it been replaced with? The media should ask and the administration should provide answers.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

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