The Problem with the House GOP’s Position on Immigration Reform in One Chart
Yes, the evidence shows you can trust Obama to enforce immigration laws.
Immigration reform stalled earlier this month when Speaker of the House John Boehner made the following statement to the press:
“There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”
Now, I understand that the current attack narrative by the GOP is that the president is refusing to enforce laws he does not like. I am not unsympathetic to the notion that the president is relying too heavily on executive actions, but the GOP seems to be forgetting any number issues in this narrative, not the least of which being things like the history of the American executive over the last century, as well as pesky things like legislative delegation of authority and prosecutorial discretion. However, all of that is part of a different and wider discussion (although it is worth noting that the best way for congress to rein in a president is for that congress to legislate).
In regards to immigration, Boehner is probably referring to the following (back in 2012): Obama to Permit Young Migrants to Remain in U.S.
Administration officials said the president used existing legal authority to make the broad policy change, which could temporarily benefit more than 800,000 young people. He did not consult with Congress, where Republicans have generally opposed measures to benefit illegal immigrants.
It should be noted that whatever enforcement changes created by these orders expires when Obama leaves office, hence the temporary nature of the move. The policy would appear to be predicated on general powers such as prosecutorial discretion and deferred enforcement. I am unclear, beyond that, as to the precise justification.
So, on the one hand, opponents to immigration reform can point to the above and assert that President Obama is not enforcing the laws (although, again, the best way to rein in a president is for the congress to legislate).
On the other hand, it is empirically impossible to assert that President Obama’s administration is not, in the big picture, enforcing the immigration laws. Note the following, which shows deportations through his first term in historical perspective (via the NYT)::
One cannot partake of the numbers and actually accept the claim that the administration is not enforcing immigration laws. As Greg Weeks noted at the time of Boehner’s quote:
As I say until I end up turning blue, President Obama has enforced immigration law and deported more people than any president in the history of the United States. If there is one thing you can trust him on, it is to keep up enforcement.
In fact, like Greg, I have been trying to point this out for a while (for example, I posted on this back in 2010 and again in 2011 wherein I quoted Greg, in fact, in another of his attempts to point to these facts).
The Economist called a piece on this topic “The great expulsion” and provided a chart not unlike the one above as well as the following:
One may not like the executive order route to temporarily put into place elements of the DREAM Act, and I can understand that perspective. However, what one cannot assert (at least if one likes one’s assertions to be backed by facts) is that the Obama administration is not enforcing immigration laws.
Oh, and by the way, have a I mentioned that the best way to rein in a president is for the congress to legislate?