The crusade is heating up to remove “criminal aliens” from our midst. At a time when the Obama administration is sending signals that it might send some signals that it might encourage debate about a new immigration reform bill, the administration, Congress, and DHS are saying they are serious about removing criminal aliens and making sure there is the money to do the job. We will, of course, have to wait until what President Obama says about his plans to advance a new comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). While encouraging, the report in this week’s New York Times about the administration’s plans for CIR this year leave much room for skepticism. Cecilia Muñoz, deputy assistant to the president, told the Times’ reporters that “he intends to start the debate this year.” But more debate is not what the issue needs. If Obama is to meet his commitment to pass an immigration reform bill that guides the 11-million plus undocumented population “out of the shadows” and that leads to the orderly immigration system he envisions, he will need not only to lay out a clear vision of what that orderly system is but also put his political weight behind it. Policymakers and the electorate don’t need more debate on this contentious issue. They need a new vision that makes good common sense – and that’s something lacking on both sides of the debate. On the pro-immigrant side, advocates are still reluctant to stand behind an employment verification system that would dissuade new illegal immigrant flows and still reluctant to acknowledge that strict limits on family reunification visas need to be part of any CIR compromise. In the meantime, though, the “enforcement first” policy agenda continues to advance. Yes, DHS Secretary Napolitano has publicly expressed her misgivings about work-site raids that target workers more than the employers of undocumented labor. And she has complained about overly aggressive raids by the more than one-hundred fugitive operations teams that routinely net as “collateral” as many or more simple immigration violators as “fugitive aliens” and “criminal aliens.” But she is burnishing her hard-line credentials as DHS chief with her declarations in support of accelerated campaign to target criminal aliens wherever they may be found and whether they are illegal or legal. The April 2 hearing on “Priorities for Enforcing Immigration Law” before the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee underscored that the push to remove criminal aliens will be heating up under Napolitano’s tenure.
Photo: Cecilia Muñoz