- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 9, 2014

The same week the White House was assuring Republicans they could trust him to enforce immigration laws, the Obama administration quietly announced that it was reinterpreting the rules for refugees and asylum seekers so applicants could be approved even if they had given “limited” material support for terrorism.

It was the latest blow to the chances for immigration reform, which now hang on the very question of whether Republicans can trust President Obama to enforce the laws.

“Yet again, this administration is abusing the powers granted it by Congress,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, said after he had a chance to digest the changes. As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Goodlatte likely would be the chief Republican negotiator on any immigration bill, and his evaluation of the president’s willingness to reinterpret the law is indicative of where many of his colleagues stand.


SPECIAL COVERAGE: Immigration Reform


Congressional Democrats say they, too, suffer from having their trust abused. Yet they blame Republicans, who they say have repeatedly promised to tackle the immigration issue but back away when the politics get rough.

“We were teased over and over again,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “Let me tell you, any excuse will do.”

He and fellow Democrats say Republicans’ lack of trust in Mr. Obama rings hollow because of one chief statistic: Under his tenure, the government has deported about 2 million illegal immigrants, more than under any other president.

But sorting out the reality from those numbers can be difficult.

Immigration analysts question the validity of the 2 million deportation number, arguing that the Homeland Security Department has changed whom it counts as deportations.

Under other presidents, deportations generally were reserved for illegal immigrants living and working in the interior of the U.S., while those caught at the border generally were “returned” rather than deported. But the Obama administration increasingly puts those caught at the border into deportation proceedings, which has boosted the numbers but doesn’t necessarily mean more illegal immigrants are deported from the interior.

A Washington Times analysis last year of fiscal 2013 deportation numbers found that only about 1 percent of the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants living in the interior of the U.S. were deported.

Beyond the deportation numbers, the Republicans’ list of breaches of trust is extensive. They point to the administration’s lawsuits against states that want to crack down on illegal immigration and note that the Justice Department has not sued Chicago or other “sanctuary city” communities that actively shield illegal immigrants.

The administration is years behind in devising a way to measure border security after scrapping the previous definition in 2010.

Administration critics also point to a number of orders that have prevented immigration agents from deporting most rank-and-file illegal immigrants.

“It has been systematic and across the board,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that advocates a crackdown on illegal immigration.

She said there is no evidence that the administration would get tough on future illegal immigrants even if Congress enacts a law legalizing those currently in the country.

Story Continues →