At The Economist this week is an article entitled “Barack Obama: the Deporter-in-Chief,” which calls out President Obama for his devastating record of deporting nearly 2 million immigrants. Read the full article here or an excerpt below:
OCTAVIO NAVA CABRERA was pulled over by police in Illinois in April 2013 for going through a stop sign. He had arrived in the state in 1986, aged 13, and most of his family still live there. He did not have a proper driving licence and had an immigration violation dating from 1997, when he was stopped at the border after a trip to Mexico. Mr Nava Cabrera was imprisoned for seven months and then deported, leaving a son behind. He is now sleeping on the floor of a friend’s apartment in Mexico City and slightly baffled by the whole experience. “I don’t know anything about Mexico,” he says.
America is expelling illegal immigrants at nine times the rate of 20 years ago (see article); nearly 2m so far under Barack Obama, easily outpacing any previous president. Border patrol agents no longer just patrol the border; they scour the country for illegals to eject. The deportation machine costs more than all other areas of federal criminal law-enforcement combined. It tears families apart and impoverishes America…
Why would a supposedly liberal president oversee something so illiberal, cruel and pointless? The Machiavellian explanation is that it motivates Latinos, who associate such barbarism with Republicans, to keep voting for the Democrats. Mr Obama’s defenders prefer two other excuses.
First, he is merely following laws written by nativist Republicans. This is a cop-out. As president he sets priorities for the executive branch, which cannot catch and prosecute everyone who breaks any of the gazillions of federal rules. He can find ways to slow the deportation of harmless immigrants and concentrate on those who have committed serious crimes. He has already delayed action against those who arrived as children.
More visas, fewer expulsions
The second excuse is that this is all part of Mr Obama’s grand strategy to secure immigration reform this year, including a path to legal status for the 12m illegal immigrants now in the country. There is room for a deal (see article). The House Republicans have long believed that letting in more people like Mr Nadella is a good thing, and they are inching towards some sort of amnesty process for undocumented workers like Mr Cabrera. They still dislike the idea of illegal immigrants becoming citizens (and voting for Democrats), while the Democrats are suspicious of temporary-worker schemes. These differences would be bridgeable, with a little trust. Given its absence, Mr Obama will only win Republican votes by showing that the border is secure.
Immigration reform is indeed a great prize. But die-hard nativists are unlikely to be swayed, no matter how tough the laws, and reform can pass without their votes. There are very few things about America that are as vindictive and self-defeating as its deportation machine. Rather than making excuses for keeping it, Mr Obama should be exposing its awfulness and leading the campaign to de-fang it.