Obama has pushed immigration change to a "no takers" Congress. On May 10th, in his speech at the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, he accused Republicans of demanding unrealistic crackdowns and refusing to consider policy and legal reform.
"They wanted a fence," the president said of Republicans. "Well, that fence is now basically complete. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they'll want alligators in the moat." His intent was obvious... using ridicule of the Republican insistence on physical barriers and their "...send 'em all home" approach to illegal immigration.
The Obama administration has built the fence and has tried the "send 'em all home" route, to the tune of more than three-quarters of a million deportations in 2009-2010. Hispanics who expected Obama to change America's response to illegals have been appalled. They are threatening to abandon him if he can't get a reform package through Congress. In May, he began suggesting he would make immigration reform a campaign issue, and now he has.
Three hundred thousand prosecutions are under review. An interdepartmental groupÂ—Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ)Â—will develop criteria for selection of cases to be dropped from prosecution. If there is no history of criminal activity, the person has been in the USA since he or she was a small child, and they are in school (DREAM Act students), they will likely not be prosecuted or deported. Immigrants classified as low-priority cases could receive a stay of deportation and the chance to apply for a work permit.
The president has thrown down the gauntlet, saying in effect, "Fences and barriers don't work. Arrests and deportations don't work. Criminal prosecution just fills up our jails. It's time and past time to do something that will work." He is proposing a program that concentrates on dangerous criminals and people who pose a threat to society. A substantial number of the cases now in court are not criminal cases.
Meanwhile, Border States are trying to create their own control system by building a patchwork of laws aimed at illegal aliens and those who employ them. The federal government has so far been successful in court in asserting that illegal alien control is a national problem and that federal law supersedes State law.
There is some indication that the recession has acted to slow illegal immigration, and may even have caused a substantial mini-exodus of illegal immigrants. However, it's likely that such effects are temporary, lasting only until an upturn is well confirmed, and will have little long-term effect on the issue.