From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced Thursday that it would suspend deportation proceedings against many illegal immigrants who pose no threat to national security or public safety. The new policy is expected to help thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as young children, graduated from high school and want to go on to college or serve in the armed forces.
White House and immigration officials said they would exercise “prosecutorial discretion” to focus enforcement efforts on cases involving criminals and people who have flagrantly violated immigration laws.
Under the new policy, the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, can provide relief, on a case-by-case basis, to young people who are in the country illegally but pose no threat to national security or to the public safety.
In the article, Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas harshly criticizes the adminstration’s decision.
“The Obama administration has again made clear its plan to grant backdoor amnesty to illegal immigrants,” Rep. Smith said. “The administration should enforce immigration laws, not look for ways to ignore them. Officials should remember the oath of office they took to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land.”
While President Obama has generally pushed for generic immigration reform and heavily promoted the DREAM Act, he appeared to want to seem tough on border security. Deportations have recently been at higher rates than they were during the Bush adminstration, angering many liberals.
This move shows the enormous power the executive branch has over US policy, even when Congress disagrees with it. The adminstration was unable to pass the DREAM Act during the lame duck session of the 2009-2010 Congress because Senate Democrats from conservative areas, including North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan, opposed the legislation. Yet the adminstration is able to pretty much implement the ideas of the failed bill simply by refusing to enforce existing law. One can make a case for immigration reform, but Congress should be responsible for enacting it – not by adminstrative maneuverings by a President desperate to shore up support from his base.