Today, the Obama Administration announced significant changes to deportation practices, and brings them in line with enforcement priorities. The Administration responded to the call for administrative action with significant changes that, if implemented fully and fairly, will focus immigration enforcement on the worst of the worst, not the best and the brightest.
This new approach is firmly grounded in principles of smart law enforcement, putting the deportation of dangerous felons ahead of young people eligible for the DREAM Act, as well as other immigrants who have been in the country for years, raising families and building up their lives.
We are skeptical about the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to make this policy the new normal, given the way these agencies have operated for years. But this announcement establishes a new level of accountability and clarity that should lead to safety and stability for thousands of American families whose lives currently are being turned upside down by deportation.
Many questions remain unanswered and other reforms are needed. The Secure Communities program remains fundamentally flawed and needs dramatic reforms to reverse the damage done to community policing; if not, the program should be terminated. Other administrative measures should also be taken. For example, spouses of U.S. citizens who are eligible for green cards and waivers of undocumented presence should be able to apply for those waivers in the U.S. – without having to risk their families and their lives to do so.
Although much more work is needed, today the Obama Administration did a good thing and we applaud them for doing so. What’s next is predictable. Republicans in Congress, like Rep. Lamar Smith, Senator David Vitter and Senator John Cornyn, will blast this initiative from the outset. They will pander to their base and deepen their brand as an anti-immigrant, anti-Latino party committed to the mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants. This includes valedictorians, future soldiers and hard working parents.
We challenge them to state exactly why it is in the nation’s interest to expel 11 million people who are deeply rooted in American communities and call this country their home.