Is criticism of the President’s handling of immigration fair?
By Danielle Damper
Save a few social issues, nowhere in politics can you find more partisan name-calling than in the immigration debate. Both liberals and conservatives frame the other side as actively trying to bring down democracy as we know it; and of course, no one is happy with leadership. Many liberals are calling President Obama the “Deporter in Chief” for being far too hard on immigrants, while conservatives are quick to criticize the president for being far too soft.
How are we supposed to make sense of the immigration problem with all of this name calling?
First, let’s look at the facts. Obama is not the “Deporter in Chief.” Although some statistics imply that Obama has deported more immigrants than President Bush, this is more semantics than actual fact. President Obama has completed more formal deportations (complete with fingerprinting and a trial) than Bush. However, in terms of removals from the country (without a formal trial), Bush’s amount far exceeded Obama’s.
Despite what both the far left and the right say, I believe this use of deportation is an incredibly smart approach to a complicated problem.
Obama’s reliance on formal deportations could be a way to selectively keep our borders secure. Rather than indiscriminately pushing people away, formal deportations ensure that those who are deported are deported for a reason and can never come back. With formal deportations, penalties are extremely high for attempting to reenter the country. This sends the message that America does not tolerate those who are not going to contribute to society. Removals, on the other hand, send less of a message, simply bringing illegals back across the border without full investigations and penalties. This reflects the “get ‘em all out” conservative philosophy that I believe is deeply flawed.
Many conservatives view all illegals as criminals, but for the most part, our illegal immigrants are not criminals (apart from the act of entering the US illegally) but instead are simply people searching for a better life. This must be taken into consideration when creating immigration policy. No matter how many we truck back across the border, there will always be people willing to break the law in search of the American dream.
This is why we should formally deport those who aren’t contributing to society and be more lenient with the rest. With completion of service, military or otherwise, I think a path to citizenship should be open to those who are illegally in the country. Once illegal immigrants become citizens, they cease being part of the problem. The new citizens will pay taxes that support the schools that their children attend, and our society collectively will benefit.
With such a heated issue, people will often broadly generalize the impact immigrants have on our society to promote their own agendas. However, we need to keep in mind that immigration is not merely an abstract political debate but has a real, tangible effect on individuals and communities. We need a smart approach to handling immigration, and neither trucking them all out or letting them all in makes sense. Regardless of partisan politics, selective deportation is the middle ground we’ve been looking for. We need to remember that immigration is not just an issue of dollars and cents, or left and right, but the lives of people like you and me.