- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant wants a judge to halt President Obama’s new nondeportation policy, arguing that failing to send illegal immigrants back home is costing his state tens of millions of dollars a year.

Mr. Bryant, a Republican, on Wednesday joined a lawsuit filed over the summer by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who said they are being forced to violate federal law by releasing illegal immigrants they know are eligible to be deported.

“I believe this action by the Obama administration is unconstitutional and circumvents Congress’s authority,” said Mr. Bryant, adding that illegal immigration hurts his state. “As governor, I cannot turn a blind eye to the problem of illegal immigration and its costs to Mississippi.”

Mr. Obama’s nondeportation policy, announced in June and implemented Aug. 15, applies to illegal immigrants 30 years old and younger who have avoided major criminal records.

Under the new policy, those illegal immigrants will be given papers saying they have been cleared from the threat of deportation — known as “deferred action” — and they will be given work permits. But the administration says they are still considered to be illegal aliens.

The policy has become a hot issue both politically and procedurally.

States are grappling with how to treat those granted deferred action. California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has signed a law allowing them to get driver’s licenses, while Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, has issued guidance saying that because the government still considers them illegal immigrants, they are not entitled to licenses in her state.

By joining the ICE agents’ lawsuit, Mr. Bryant broadens the case and gives a judge more reason to hear it, said Kris W. Kobach, Kansas’s secretary of state and the architect of many of the state laws cracking down on illegal immigration.

Mr. Kobach said the lawsuit now names both ICE, whose agents are responsible for immigration enforcement in the interior of the country, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that is adjudicating the deferred action applications.

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has struggled with how to respond to the policy. For months, he refused to say whether he would cancel it if he won the White House, but last week he told The Denver Post he would respect any deportation stays issued by the Obama administration, though his administration wouldn’t approve any new ones.

Mr. Kobach, who had advised the Romney campaign on immigration, said he’s still not certain how Mr. Romney’s policy would play out, but he hopes a judge will have overturned the policy by January anyway and the issue would be moot for Mr. Romney.

For his part, Mr. Obama is running a new campaign ad saying he is inspired by illegal immigrant “Dreamers” — the nickname given to youths applying for his nondeportation policy. Mr. Obama narrates the entire ad himself in Spanish, saying the Dreamers’ goal is to contribute to their adopted country.

The Homeland Security Department, which oversees ICE and Citizenship and Immigration Services, has defended the nondeportation policy, arguing that it does not have the resources to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants and has to set priorities.

Even with the new policy, ICE was on track to remove about 400,000 illegal immigrants, which is about the same number as the past three years. Critics, though, say the numbers are being boosted artificially by including some immigrants caught at the border by the U.S. Border Patrol.

Before winning the governorship, Mr. Bryant was state auditor and he conducted a study in 2006 calculating that illegal immigration cost Mississippi more than $25 million a year more in benefits and services paid out than in taxes paid in.