Obama’s Dream Act Dooms Immigration Reform

Obama’s Dream Act Dooms Immigration Reform

REUTERS/Jeff Topping

My pick for quote of the month: "I'm going to keep doing everything I can do to keep making our immigration system smarter and more efficient." Thus spoke President Obama at a Fourth of July event celebrating several naturalized citizens.  

Seriously, as thousands of unaccompanied children swarm our border, lured by the promise of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, aka the “Dream Act,” the president thinks he has made our immigration mess smarter – and more efficient.  

It sure doesn’t seem smarter to have an expected influx this year of 60,000 to 80,000 children alarming the nation about our porous border and deportation process – especially if you’re hoping to reform our immigration laws. GOP hardliners have long insisted that a secure border is step number one to any long-term fix. 

Related: Obama Attacked By Both Sides on Border Crisis 

It doesn’t seem efficient to have exactly one facility in the entire country set up to house families – a detention center in Pennsylvania that can accommodate about 100 people. It doesn’t seem smart or efficient that most of the youngsters, and the adults traveling with them, will recede into the shadows as their court dates are postponed year after year. 

This is a mess, and President Obama is to blame. Don’t take my word for it – Joe Biden blew his boss’ cover on his recent trip to Central America. He tried to turn around the prevailing narrative by emphasizing, "Children and adults arriving with their children (in the U.S.) are not eligible to benefit from the passage of immigration reform legislation or from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process.”

That’s not how The New York Times sees it. The paper is in full defense mode, blaming the William Wilburforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 for the sudden surge in illegal minors. Most Americans have never heard of Mr. Wilburforce, much less his bill. It was passed with almost no notice in the final year of the George W. Bush presidency, but The Times imagines that this obscure bit of legalese has lit up the blogosphere in Central America.

The paper envisions parents south of our border studying the legislation for six years, consulting their lawyers and then deciding yes, this particular bill will protect my child as I send him alone into a foreign land. What a truly ludicrous idea.

Related: A Long Wait at the Back of the Immigration Line

The Times is carrying on their stalwart tradition of absolving President Obama from the many disasters growing up like weeds around the White House (and blaming Bush). For the record, it should be noted that the 2008 bill was a re-authorization of a bill originally passed in 2000, before GWB took office.

That bill was meant mainly to protect women and children who were victims of sex trafficking, but it began the process of giving asylum to illegals under 18 years of age. It directed the federal government to extend benefits to trafficking victims – and specifically to minors – “without regard to the immigration status” of such unfortunates. Thus, the process began.

The accelerant on this raging fire came from Obama’s “Dream Act,” initiated just months before the 2012 election, in response to his sinking popularity with Hispanics. Obama’s executive action temporarily suspended the deportation of illegal minors who had been brought to the United States as children, and who had met certain other requirements.

The young people who qualified were granted a two-year renewable reprieve from deportation; in effect, they were free to stay in the U.S. Because it was an election-year gambit, and because it might affect 1.4 million people, the move attracted significant notice. Here -- and south of the border. 

Related: Obama Tries to Reform Immigration on His Own, Bypassing Congress 

That was good news for Obama, whose approval ratings from the Hispanic community had sunk to 53 percent in 2011, threatening the turnout of a core voting block. Because of the Dream effort, and energetic courting (and a pitiful wooing effort on the part of Mitt Romney), Obama regained his footing, capturing 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, compared to 27 percent for Mr. Romney. 

President Obama’s standing with Hispanics has again tanked; it is now at 44 percent - below those 2011 lows. It can’t help that the White House looks completely flummoxed by the turmoil at the border as it lurches from one policy fix to the next. Most recently, the Obama administration backed off a proposed law change that could have permitted swifter deportation of the children coming across the U.S. border – a plan launched only last week. The initiative, meant to deter those seeking a safe haven for their children, was slammed by immigrants-rights groups. A new plan, requesting $3.7 billion, of which $1.8 will go to new detention centers, is unlikely to win much favor either. 

The president is now in a pickle. As he heads to Texas for yet another fund-raising tour, critics are encouraging him to visit the border, to get a first-hand look at what he has called an “urgent humanitarian challenge.” The White House has refused this request (issued by Texas Governor Perry, among others), rightly imagining that Obama surrounded by hundreds of desperate and pleading youngsters -- or locals incensed by the tumult -- might not be the perfect photo-op just months before yet another election. 

At the last minute, he has agreed to a meeting with “faith leaders” in Dallas; lest you think otherwise, a White House spokesperson has affirmed that Mr. Obama is “very aware of the situation that exists on the southwest border.”  What small comfort – to our border communities and to the children lost in our immigration maze. And, to those who actually hope for immigration reform, which is being dealt a heavy, if not fatal, blow. 

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