'Bipartisan' Task Force Wrong on Deportations

If President Obama were to halt deportations, it could serve as a model for Congress, and would put pressure on Congress to create a solution that would then displace the President's discretion.
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Despite the shutdown, the politics of immigration has not stopped; rather, the Latino community has been escalating the seriousness of demonstrations. As the acts of civil disobedience have stepped up, so have the arbitrary deportations that are breaking families apart and leaving U.S. citizens without their loved ones. This is at the heart of the demand that President Obama, through executive action, halt deportations. By opposing executive action, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), ironically, focuses on politics than good policy and results.

As the head of the Executive branch, the President is responsible for the Department of Homeland Security and policing immigration. With this responsibility comes the power of prosecutorial discretion, namely the authority of an agency to decide what charges to bring and how to pursue each case. The Supreme Court has made it clear that "an agency's decision not to prosecute or enforce, whether through civil or criminal process, is a decision committed to an agency's absolute discretion. Exercising prosecutorial discretion is about effectively using resources, not about politics as the BPC only sees.

The BPC continues that "extending DACA through executive action is not a permanent solution to our immigration system's shortcomings... What one president may accomplish today through executive action, another may undo tomorrow under the same authority." For mix-status families being torn apart by an immigration policy producing record deportations, the short-term fight to keep Mom in the country is everything. As a matter of fact, the country does not get a new president every day, and Congressional laws can be repealed.

Executive action by the President would also move us closer to a better economy as families would focus on spending and creating jobs rather than being separated. Studies have shown that comprehensive immigration reform would reduce the federal deficit by almost a trillion dollars as a result of people coming out of the shadows. Rather than wait for Congress to act, our economy could improve by executive action alone, albeit in a smaller step.

BPC wrongly argues that "for immigration reform to be successful, it must earn the trust of the American people," and that "sidestep[ping] Congress would undermine that trust," Since the shutdown, the GOP has hit new lows unseen in the history opinion polling, and Congressional approval ratings are now at 11 percent, only one point above the opinion polls' low-point for them in 1998 during the last shutdown. If we must wait until Congress regains the trust of the American people, we may not see immigration reform or any legislation for centuries.

And even after roughly $40 billion in security spending that passed the Senate in June, the progress has not pressured House Speaker John Boehner to put the bill up for a vote. Indeed, House Republicans continue to embrace unworkable proposals like the SAFE Act, which gives local police, untrained in immigration law, more power to arrest people suspected of being in the country illegally. The bill would generate inconsistent laws promulgated by localities, including those with a history of discriminatory practices. One does not need to look far to see the discriminatory effect: in March, a federal court found that immigration hawk Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has systematically employed racial profiling against Latinos.

In the end, Congress must take action for a permanent solution. No one disputes that. But we must live with the realities of deportation records being broken every year. The Obama administration has accumulated this legacy as a concession to the least reasonable members of government who are controlled by their primary voters. If President Obama were to halt deportations, it could serve as a model for Congress, and would put pressure on Congress to create a solution that would then displace the President's discretion.

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