- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2015

The Obama administration said Monday that illegal immigrants already in the U.S. who try to aid their relatives in sneaking across the border won’t be eligible for the president’s new deportation amnesty, as federal officials try to head off a new surge of illegal immigrants hoping to take advantage of lax enforcement.

Homeland Security and State Department officials are teaming up on the campaign, which is aimed at Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and which tries to convince would-be illegal immigrants that they won’t qualify for the new amnesty, so they shouldn’t try to come.

Mr. Obama earlier in his presidency had predicted that an amnesty would lead to a new surge in illegal immigration, but his administration is now working strenuously to try to head that possibility off, with the fate of his amnesty hanging on their success.

Homeland Security officials said their goal is to “dispel potential misinformation” about who is eligible.

As Mr. Obama envisions it, illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least five years and who have children who are either citizens or legal permanent residents can apply for an amnesty from deportation. So can illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children themselves. The administration predicts up to 5 million persons could qualify.

But more recent arrivals won’t be eligible, nor will those who have serious criminal records, the administration says.

It was unclear Monday how the administration would weed out applicants who tried to help relatives cross illegally.

Homeland Security didn’t respond to a request for comment on those plans.

Last summer the southern border saw a flood of illegal immigrants from Central America, including children and families who told Border Patrol officials they were hoping to take advantage of “permisos,” or free passes, which they believed they could get by entering the U.S.

The free passes turned out to be the papers immigration officials gave them setting court dates for deportation hearings. Because the government released most of the Central American illegal immigrants while awaiting those hearings, they had a chance to abscond and fade into the rest of the illegal immigrant community — which is why they called the court papers free passes.

Thanks in part to that surge, illegal immigration rose in 2014, marking the latest year of increases. Before then, illegal immigration had been on a downward trend, with the economic slump and stiffening enforcement actually serving to cut the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. from 2007 to 2010.

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