Horse Trading for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

2008: House Democrat Representative David Price sponsors HR 6947 which calls for a National Alternatives to Immigrant Detention Program. The Bill dies in Committee.

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2009: Luis Gutierrez introduces HR 4321 the CIR ASAP Bill (a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill including legalization for undocumented).

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/111/hr4321#overview

2009: Republicans soundly reject HR 4321 and demand more Immigration Enforcement from Obama & the Democrats before they will move an Immigration Bill forward.

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2009:  ICE begins counting traffic violators as “criminals” to seemingly boost their “criminal deportations” statistics.

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2009: In a complete 180, House Democrat David Price sponsors HR 2892 which creates the Congressional Bed Mandate requiring a minimum number of 33,400 Immigrants to be in detention at any time. It passes the House with a Democraric Majority.

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http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/roll450.xml

2010: In turn, ICE implements a detention quota of 400,000 (33,400 x 12 months = 400,800). Note: average length of immigrant detention is one month.

http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/ICEdocument032710.pdf?sid=ST2010032700037

January 2013: Obama announces we finally have Bipartisan Support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/01/29/president-obamas-four-part-plan-comprehensive-immigration-reform

April 2013: Senate introduces S. 744, a Bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:SN00744:@@@X

June 5, 2013: Ted Deutch calls for an end to the Congressional Bed Mandate which has been continued in every House Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill since Rep. David Price’s HR 2892 was passed in 2010. Deutch’s call to end mandatory detentions of now 34,000 immigrants nightly is defeated largely along party lines but with the help of 11 Democrats as well.

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/113-2013/h198

June 27, 2013: Senate passes amended S. 744, with Border Surge Amendments included.

October 1, 2013 is the first day of the fiscal year covered by HR 2217 which continues the 34,000 mandatory minimum immigrant lock up.

October 2, 2013 House introduces bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill HR 15 where it resides in committee to this day.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:HR00015:@@@X

Two Little Words That Can End Suffering and Restore a Little Sanity to the System in 2014

NOTE: This article is also published at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-pai/two-little-words_b_4966023.html

The sound of the circular firing squad is getting louder as two different strategies are creating a rift in the pro immigration reform movement. There’s a victory in the battle to demolish the deportation machine but some of our guns are aimed in the wrong direction and somewhere, anti-reformers like Rep. Steve Kingand Phyllis Schlafly must be laughing their heads off.

Both factions fighting for immigration agree that the deportation system is cruel, illogical and needs to changed.

On one side we have groups like La Raza firing away at President Obama: Calling him the Deporter in Chief and trying to put pressure on him to do what he can’t do. On the other side, there’s a fight we can win, with grassroots groups likeTNTweeters and Univision’s Fernando Espeulas calling for the use of a discharge petition to push a floor vote in the House.

The groups taking potshots at Obama may possibly have their hearts in the right place but they are fighting a futile battle and diverting attention and resources from the real war in Congress. They’re losing sight of the big picture ofComprehensive Immigration Reform and focusing on deportations but the irony is they will not be able to win in this way.

Attacking President Obama and claiming he can use executive orders to stop deportations is worse than counterproductive. It’s misdirection from the real issue that is powering the deportation machine: the costly and draconian Congressional Bed Mandate. That mandate — which is not an option, but a mandatory budget spend using appropriation tools generally reserved for entitlements such as Veteran’s benefits and retirement pay — requires the government maintain 34,000 beds for immigrant detainees at all times at a cost of five million dollars a day.

Fixing the Bed Mandate takes two little words and Congress. The words are “up to.” Right now the law says “not less than” 34,000 people need to be incarcerated every day. By changing this to “up to 34,000″ ICE and President Obama will have the flexibility they need make real change.

It won’t happen without Congress but there’s good news there: Virtually every politician in the House is up for re-election this year. That means that pressure can be brought to bear. With so many in reform movement turning up the heat on President Obama, they ignore the political reality that he is never going to be up for election again.

Ironically, by focusing on the President, groups like La Raza actually risk turning up pressure coming from the Tea Party wing that’s obstructing reform.

The Tea Party is already going ballistic over the use of executive orders. Pushing Obama for an executive order plays into their worst fears and will lead to more ignorant rhetoric about Obama pushing for amnesty and harsher calls for enforcement. The Tea Party knows there’s an election coming up, too.

What’s needed now is focus. Put down the Deporter In Chief signs. Push for the discharge petition and then keep going. Let everyone running for the House know that a united immigration reform movement is watching and will hold them accountable.

House Republicans Pass Law to Sue Obama for Not Arresting Americans Using Marijuana Legally

Under the cry of States Rights, Congress has disallowed any meaningful control of firearms or ammunition, has allowed the Voting Rights Act to be gutted after a 48 year battle to assure equal voting rights to the traditionally disenfranchised, has let Stand Your Ground thrive and spread, and has allowed the passage of blatantly discriminatory laws against LGBT and women under the guise of “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Despite the federalist foothold on so called State’s Rights, these Republicans and Democrats want to be able to sue President Obama for NOT arresting Americans who are using marijuana LEGALLY (including children who are using it medically) under their State Laws.

Yes, that includes the Representative from Alaska, Don Young, who just last year co-sponsored the “Respect Your State’s Marijuana Laws” Act.

As the Sponsor of this act HR4138 reiterates the words of his good friend, Allen West, “the race card is the last one in the deck.”  Indeed.

HR4138 Act by Trey Gowdy (SC-4) was passed by the House on March 12, 2014

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/113-2014/h124

Cosponsors who joined Elvish King Gowdey want to arrest Americans who are using Marijuana legally in their states:

Republican Darrell Issa (CA-40)

Republican Jim Gerlach (PA-6)

Republican Bob Goodlatte (VA-6)

But, there were also FIVE DEMOCRATS who voted WITH THE REPUBLICANS to begin arresting Americans for LEGAL marijuana use:

Democrat Henry Cuellar (TX-28)

Democrat Pete Gallego (TX-23)

Democrat George Barrow (GA-12)

Democrat Nick Rahal (West Virginia -3)

Democrat Collin Peterson (Minnesota-7)

The following Republicans did a flip flop on Thursday by voting for the ENFORCE ACT, while in the past, supporting the relaxation of marijuana in their states:

Republican Mike Coffman (CO-6)

Republican Dana Rohroabacher (CA-48)

Republican Justin Amash (Michigan-3)

Republican Don Young (Alaska- at large)

Alaska Republican Don Young actually cosponsored the “Respect State Marijuana’s Law Act in 2013″

THE HOUSE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR RECORD DEPORTATIONS, THE UNNECESSARY AND INCREDIBLY EXPENSIVE DETENTION OF NON-CRIMINAL & LOW PRIORITY ALIENS… AND HERE’S THE PROOF.

FY 2014 DHS BUDGET REQUEST to appropriate funds for UP TO 31,800 detention beds.

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Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) Section 236(c) states exactly who is a “mandatory custody” by the crime committed or security threat to the U.S.

On June 5, 2013, the House of Representatives Passed HR 2217 which did the following two things:

1.  Funded DHS detention beds at more than requested by DHS

2.  Made all 34,000 beds “mandatory detentions” by including language way above and beyond the language of the INA

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On June 5, 2013, Ted Deutch proposed Amendment 107 to eradicate the mandatory minimum detention lockup language of HR2217.  That amendment was defeated with the help of these 11 Democrats, who voted against ending the indefensible mandatory lockup quota.

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HR2217 passed a day later  on June 6, 2013, with the indefensible expansion of mandatory immigrant lockups included.

HR2217 was incorporated in HR3547, the Omnibus Appropriations Act, which was passed on January 17, 2014 by a Democratic Vote and thus, with a Waiver of the Hastert Rule.

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WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED?

The Law, the Immigration & Nationality Act, makes certain high risk and criminal foreign nationals ineligible for release and thus they are called “mandatory custodies.”  However, ICE’s own numbers show the majority of those detained and deported are not “mandatory custodies” as defined by the law.

The House, by passing Bills like HR 2217, has artificially inflated the number of “mandatory custodies” not because they are criminals or a threat to the United States, but in order to fill an artificial, arbitrary, capricious & wholly unnecessary “lockup quota.

A Message to Tea Party Conservatives & Republicans: STOP WASTEFUL MANDATORY $5 MILLION DAILY SPEND

I’m addressing this to Republicans, especially Tea Party conservatives who may be opposed to comprehensive immigration reform and in favor of tough enforcement.

We may not agree on many issues, but I want to tell you about giant, wasteful government program you’ve probably never heard of called the Congressional Bed Mandate. It’s a costly boondoggle that needs to go away as soon as possible.

It was introduced a few years ago by Democrat Robert Byrd and it creates an arbitrary requirement that the government detain 34,000 men, women and children every day of the year. The 34,000 number is set in stone right now and the cost is shocking. At $120 per person, that’s two billion dollars a year.

That two billion dollars doesn’t even take into the amount of money that the economy is losing every day that the 34,000 people aren’t out there and buying things like food and clothes. Instead, detainees are treated to government welfare.

You might think this sounds like a tough enforcement policy to crack down on illegal immigrants but don’t be fooled; the Congressional Bed Mandate is just crony capitalism at its worst. Your tax dollars are going right into the pockets of for-profit prison companies who’ve made back room deals with politicians.

It’s not about enforcement. If you want to keep track of people in deportation hearings, there are much more affordable ways to do it, including simply checking in with a case worker or wearing an ankle bracelet.

The Bed Mandate is ineffective central planning. As the number of immigrants crossing the border gone down to half what it was a few years ago, the mandate has stayed in place.

If you’re concerned about deportations, remember that the Bed Mandate is such a colossal waste of money that it’s taking dollars away from deporting the real criminals. The Bed Mandate grabs the low-hanging fruit and lets the worst of the bad guys skate.

The Congressional Bed Mandate also takes the power away from ICE agents and forces them to adapt to arbitrary system that doesn’t take day-to-day realities in account.

Aside from the money being wasted, the system is pointlessly cruel.

Welcoming the stranger is the most often repeated commandment in the Hebrew Scriptures, with the exception of the imperative to worship only the one God. And the love of neighbor (especially the vulnerable) is doubtlessly the New Testament’s constant command… Whatever the cause of immigration today, there can be no doubt as to where the Church must stand when it comes to defending the immigrant (Ref: Theologian Orlando O. Espín).

The Obama White House has suggested cuts in the system that only serve to keep the money flowing to this ridiculous government pork barreling. It’s not enough.

Call or write your Congressmen and Senator and tell them to dump the Congressional Bed Mandate entirely.

Congratulate Senator Bachus (AL-6) for being true to his faith in standing up for what is right. Encourage this man to stay in office. He announced he will not run again this year. But, this is the kind of man we need and want in Congress.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2013/08/23/a-conservative-christian-in-a-deep-red-district-makes-case-for-immigration-reform/

“The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” Psalm 146:9

“Do not oppress the window or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.” Ezekiel 22:7; Zecharaiah 7:10

Luis Gutierrez a No Show on Immigrant Lockup Vote

Really, Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez? You didn’t even bother to show up for the vote that continued the mandatory jailing of 34,000 immigrants DAILY and you have the nerve to blame President Obama for the House authorized Appropriations Bill #HR3547 that is DRIVING those record deportations??!?

You wrongfully accuse President Obama of spending record $$$ on record deportations when it was YOU and YOUR House Colleagues who voted this Bill into Law. Well, actully you, Castro and Grijalva DIDN’T EVEN SHOW UP TO VOTE ON THIS BILL.

That’s right. YOU DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO SHOW UP TO VOTE LET ALONE SAY ONE DAMN THING ABOUT THE MANDATORY $5 MILLION SPEND TO JAIL 34,000 IMMIGRANTS DAILY.

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You dropped the ball on this one, my friend. You and your House colleagues have failed us.

This is no way to run a country.

Make this right and sign Discharge Petition NOW.

http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2013/roll612.xml

RIDING THE OBAMA IS “DEPORTER IN CHIEF” TRAIN OR HOW TO COVER YOUR AS* IN CONGRESS

Douglas Rivlin responded directly to my article re Obama NOT being able to stop all deportations.

http://susanpaitwitter.wordpress.com/can-president-obama-stop-all-deportations/

No, I did not go after Luis Gutierrez even after his bizarro speech about Obama enforcing Immigration Laws (which, quite frankly, I thought was just silly as it was a response to the disingenuous Republican proposition that they can’t pass Immigration Reform because they can’t trust Obama to enforce it).  But, I did go after National Council of La Raza for declaring the President is the Deporter in Chief without saying a word about Speaker Boehner and the Republicans’ BS obstruction of CIR under the fake as* Hastert Rule.  NCLR’s declaration of President Obama as the “Deporter in Chief,” Doug’s response, along with Gutierrez’ speech and similar “concerted messaging” leads me to believe the “Obama is Deporter in Chief” is now a Coalition Move– a wrongheaded one, at that.

The euphamistically named “Congressional Bed Mandate” requiring the detention of a minimum of 34,000 immigrants each and every day makes ANY act of discretion by the President just that– an act of discretion.  No expansion of DACA, PIP, or other exercise of discretion IS ANYWHERE CLOSE TO ANY KIND OF REAL FIX to our pathetic, embarrassing and utterly broken immigration system where US veterans and pregnant women are deported and 7 year old children represent themselves in court.

Because of the Congressional Bed Mandate, any exercise protecting any class of detainees/deportees merely pushes the air in the balloon.  The balloon is full of 34,000 Immigrants who must be in custody every night at a cost to taxpayers of $5 million a day. The 2013-2014 mandatory jailing of 34,000 immigrants a night was introduced by House Republicans last summer

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=336993

and passed January 2014 as 3547 “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014″

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113hr3547enr/pdf/BILLS-113hr3547enr.pdf

THE SENATE, HOUSE, DEMOCRATS & REPUBLICANS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR INCLUDING THE CONTINUATION OF THE CONGRESSIONAL BED MANDATE WHICH CLEARLY DRIVES DEPORTATIONS.

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http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-24/congress-fuels-private-jails-detaining-34-000-immigrants.html

http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/3547/actions

HR 3547

Immigrants are only in detention because the deportation machine is working against them. The deportation machine is fueled by a body of laws that preceded Obama’s election, the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act).

Nevertheless, here is a record of EXACTLY who voted for continuation of the mandatory minimum of jailed immigrants and who voted AGAINST it.  Not being present for a vote as important as this should also tell you about the absentee.  The votes are mostly down party lines but not a few Democrats voted for the continuation of DHS appropriations, including the Congressional Bed Mandate, along with most Republicans.  Here you can see exactly who voted for the House introduced bill both in the House and the Senate.

http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/3547/actions

DHS isn’t a hotel; if they don’t fill those beds every night, they answer to House Republicans who will and have accused DHS of breaking the law when too few immigrants are jailed. It’s the mandatory detention balloon. The ignorant don’t understand the analogy of executive discretion just being a pushing around of air in the balloon. So, you save this one million over here and that one million over there becomes more of a target for arrest, detention & deportation.

By the way – Luis Gutierrez – shame on you for saying President Obama has spent more on deportations than any other president before him. No, actually it was YOU, the House, that presented and passed the DHS appropriations bill. DHS, as far as my searches from 2002 on the ICE website, has NEVER requested a mandatory spend to jail a minimum number of immmigrants every night. THAT is something a HOUSE DEMOCRAT conceived of following high migratory patterns from Mexico during the economic boom and REPUBLICANS have been defending ever since… even as net migration to/from Mexico has fallen to zero. Additionally, in this last Appropriations Bill, the House proposed to fund the mandatory detention of immigrants at an amount HIGHER than what was requested by DHS.

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The fact that this town square stoning of President Obama, who has exercised UNPRECEDENTED discretion in stopping the deportation of over one million Dreamers, appears to be a Coalition Move is distressing in its utter wrongheadedness.   What is so hard to understand?  No, Obama isn’t CHOOSING TO DEPORT RECORD NUMBERS OF PEOPLE, CONGRESS MANDATED IT!!!

If you, Ladies and Gentleman of the House and Senate let the Congressional Bed Mandate slip under your noses because you didn’t READ THE BILL (as I’m learning is more the rule than the exception) then you need to get better “reader reporters” or you can put that Ivy League Degree to work and actually READ THE DAMN BILLS YOU VOTE ON!!!

So, Congress, you messed up.  You let the Congressional Bed Mandate pass because you weren’t paying attention or because of the private prison lobby $$$.  Whose fault is that??? CONGRESS MADE IT ILLEGAL FOR DHS NOT TO DETAIN 34,000 IMMIGRANTS A DAY!

The Senate has passed a bipartisan bill, the House refuses to vote on it or the House version of it, HR 15 and President Obama will sign either today.

One thing all these Deporter in Chief people have in common, including Gutierrez, is that they have been trying UNSUCCESSFULLY for 10 years funded by millions perhaps billions in grants and contributions to get the Dream Act passed and they can’t even do that… let alone get Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Enough politicking.  Now is the time to put all our cards on the table.

We want a vote on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the House (HR15).

If there is no vote, we want to see who will sign a discharge petition, even if the discharge does not garner enough signatures.

Anyone who won’t sign the discharge petition WILL NOT GET OUR VOTE– Republican or Democrat.

If you, Representative A, B & C, support Comprehensive Immigration Reform, then prove it by signing a discharge petition.  If you don’t, we will vote in someone who will.

Status Quo has not worked for the last 10 years so now, it’s time for a change all around if need be.

http://susanpaitwitter.wordpress.com/can-president-obama-stop-all-deportations/

Leaked Issa Memo On Immigration Enforcement Tips Republican’s Hand

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On October 23rd, 2013, Republican Darrell Issa announced that he was going to introduce an immigration proposal called the Alien Accountability Act. Even though an article ran in Politico about the AAA, it was never actually proposed as law. It just vanished as House Republicans pulled back on immigration reform until after this year’s midterm elections.

I’ve gotten my hands on the leaked one page memo from Issa’s office summarizing the Alien Accountability act and I’m publishing it here for the first time.

Click here for Darrell’s Issa’s Alien Accountability Act Memo
(Note: Handwritten marks on document are mine, not from Issa’s office.) 

In his Politico interview from October, Rep. Issa tried to make the Alien Accountability Act sound fair and balanced. (You know, just like Fox News.) He said:

“It’s halfway – and it always has been – halfway between full amnesty and simply rejecting people,” Issa told POLITICO on Wednesday. “I think if we’re going to break this logjam that’s occurred for my whole 13 years I’ve been in Congress, we have to find middle ground.”

This leaked memo proves that Issa’s approach to removing immigrants from the United States isn’t just draconian, it’s ready and willing to shred the U.S. Constitution to please the anti-immigrant Republican base.

The Outrages In The Issa Memo

Issa’s proposal is that all undocumented immigrants need to register and cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security within six months (according to a prior version of the bill)… but of course, not all immigrants are eligible.

There are two outrageous shockers in Issa’s Alien Accountability Act memo. Immigrants who Issa says aren’t allowed to participate and must leave immediately include:

  • Relatives of participating aliens
  • Aliens with a pending deportation case

The ‘relative of participating aliens’ proposal creates an immediate and obvious problem; a race among immigrant relatives to see which family member cooperates with the DHS first. The winner of this Amazingly Cruel Race gets to (possibly) stay in America while everyone else in their family become The Biggest Immigration Losers.

Excluding “aliens with a pending deportation case” isn’t merely cruel but unconstitutional and borderline insane.

The idea here must be that the people in immigration proceedings already are the low hanging fruit: the people already out of the shadows with names and addresses on file, so they are easy to detain and deport.

Sure, it throws out the U.S. Constitution and the right to due process but it gives Issa an easy way to say he deported half a million people or so who’d put their faith in the American legal system.

While this maneuver might bring cheers from the Republican base who imagine Mexican and Central American immigrants currently in deportation proceedings being tossed over the fence and back south of the border, conservatives would do well to remember that the immigrants Issa’s plan would kick out include every immigrant, not just the brown skinned people who cut your lawn and who built your home.

Darrell Issa mandates that if you’re in an immigration proceeding, back you go. That means everybody goes back; from Castro-hating Cubans seeking a better life to pale skinned Brits who fell in love with an American to Iranian Christians fearing religious persecution.

The History: Why Did Issa Pull The Bill?

If you want to understand why Republican leader Issa first hinted that he was going to announce the Alien Accountability Act and then made it disappear, it helps to look at the history.

After both President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders spent most of 2013 saying that they planned to make immigration reform a real legislative priority and finally fix the problems in the system, the GOP’s government shutdown took over the news cycle in October and smothered any hope of bipartisanship.

For two weeks at the beginning of October, the obstructionist Republicans brought the federal government to a grinding halt with their shutdown. Over two million federal workers were either furloughed or forced to work without knowing whether they’d be paid.

The impact on the immigration reform movement was immediate and brutal. This headline from The Christian Science Monitor says it all– Government Shutdown Overshadows Immigration Reform Efforts.

Immigration reform advocates held out hope and planned nationwide rallies, as reported on October 9th.

This marks the beginning of the escalation for the pro-immigrant-rights movement,” says Dawn Le, deputy campaign manager for the Alliance for Citizenship in Washington.

But reviving immigration reform in 2013 wasn’t meant to be. The government shutdown was the only story in town, it seemed.

However, the Republican’s blockade wasn’t going as well as they’d hoped, either. When the shutdown ended, the Republican right was rightfully facing a public relations disaster.

The more clear headed Republicans wanted to show the America public that they could actually be part of a functioning government. They announced that they were willing to work on immigration reform, again.

That’s the atmosphere that Darrell Issa was in when he told Politico he was about to propose the Alien Accountability Act.

So, what happened? The “Obamacare Website” happened.

The GOP caught a lucky break when the website that allowed people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act experienced glitches. By October 21st, President Obama was taking responsibility for the technical problems and trying to make things right. The Republican rampage continued, however.

By October 29th the Republicans realized that they had a political winner on their hands by declaring an ‘Obamacare disaster’ and creating pointless Congressional panels to annoy the people trying to fix the problems. For Americans with a short attention span, the Republican government shutdown was forgotten and so was any talk of immigration reform in 2013.

Issa’s bill was never introduced and until now, nobody knew exactly how outrageous it really was. It does provide an ominous glimpse of things to come, however.

Immigration Reform Today

Right now, Republicans are using their usual shtick of scaring the Fox News faithful by blaming Obama for everything, saying immigration legislation is dead for now because the Obama administration supposedly won’t enforce their piecemeal edicts.

In reality, everyone knows that the House Republicans pulled back because immigration reform is a losing issue for them. The only bill their base will accept is one as crazy or somehow ever crazier than Issa’s Alien Accountability Act.  The problem is that a crazy, unconstitutional bill won’t pass the current Senate. The GOP has to cross their fingers and hope they can turn the Senate crazy in the November elections, too.

In the meantime, immigrants and their families will continue to suffer from a system desperately in need of reform.

Update:  February 10, 2014 @ 14:56 EST: Right Wing Press (Breitbart News) Responds Predictably

Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Issa, said the proposal, including its title, is still being refined.

Rep. Issa continues to update and refine a proposal, however the lack of trust in this Administration’s commitment to border security and enforcement is a substantial obstacle to achieving broader reforms.  Ongoing discussions have continually identified new issues to address – key provisions and even the bill title are still under development,” Hill said. [emphasis added].

Issa’s response is “mostly false.”  The Alien Accountability Act leaked by this blogger today, is remarkably similar to the Criminal Alien Accountability Act proposed by Darrell Issa ten years ago, in 2003.

Can President Obama Stop All Deportations?

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The answer is No.

President Obama is the Nation’s chief executive, not America’s King.  When he took the oath of office he swore to uphold the law, including our tangled mess of rules and regulations known as the Immigration Law. 

President Obama, however, can and has exercised prosecutorial discretion to halt low priority deportations while we continue to wait for the House of Representatives to act.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to stop the deportations of over one million immigrant Dreamers who lack the proper papers but are contributing positively to America.   But, DACA is merely a stopgap measure giving these youth a chance to temporarily come out of the shadows to work or go to college.  It’s neither a visa nor a new immigration status and, in fact, may be revoked at any time.

The President has also exercised discretion to help those whose sacrifice to America we can never adequately repay—military families.  Given that it is unconscionable for a U.S. solider to put his life on the line in Afghanistan while his or her spouse or parents are deported from America, the President extended humanitarian immigration benefits to the immediate relatives of US Armed Forces members. These exercises of prosecutorial discretion are designed to help American families and focus limited law enforcement resources on high priority individuals

Even if it were possible for President Obama to issue an Executive Order– which has the same force as law– to stop all deportations, it would most certainly be declared an unconstitutional encroachment upon Congressional authority.  Congress could also vote to cancel or change such an Executive Order. Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security could not enforce it.  Since 2009, Congress has required that DHS operate under a statutory daily detention quota, known as the “Congressional Bed Mandate.” When ICE released 2,200 detainees in February, reducing the detainee population to just about 3,000 short of the 34,000 Bed Mandate, the House Homeland Security Chairman said the agency was “in clear violation of statute.” 

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Since 2000, migration from Mexico has decreased by about 80%. However, it is estimated the Department of Homeland Security now spends more on immigrant detention in one day ($5 million) than what it requested for the entire year’s detention budget in 2005.   Both President Obama and former DHS Secretary Napolitano have called for a more reasonable, less “artificial” Congressional Bed Mandate but their requests have not been answered.

What’s more, the numbers associated with the Congressional Bed Mandate show the real “Deporter-in-Chief”— Congress.  In 2012, ICE removed 409,849 immigrants. The average length of immigrant detention is about a month.  Multiply the current Congressional Bed Mandate of 34,000 per night by 12 months and the result 408,000 – almost exactly the same number of deportations in 2012. 

This detention quota has resulted in the removal of parents, children, veterans, the mentally disabled, and yes, US Citizens.  Soon there will have been two million deportations since President Obama took office but it’s the Congressional Bed Mandate that’s driving those deportation numbers.  For President Obama to stop those quota driven deportations now, he would have to veto outright the entire budget anticipated to be passed later this week.

As 2013 draws to a close, three facts are indisputable:  The Senate has passed a tough but fair Immigration Bill, President Obama has said he will sign it into law, and John Boehner and the House GOP leadership refuse to allow the House to vote on it. 

The only person who can offer Dreamers a chance become permanent productive members of our society, and the only person that can stop bad actor employers from exploiting undocumented workers, and the only person who can finally stop the separation of children from their parents is Speaker John Boehner. Every day the House fails to vote costs American taxpayers $5 million in detention costs alone.  But that figure pales in comparison to the human cost of inaction which is 1,100 families being torn apart every day.

Speaker Boehner, bring the Congress back now and let there be a vote on immigration reform.  America cannot afford to wait another day.

 

 

 

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