Home / General / Obama’s Immigration Policy Error

Obama’s Immigration Policy Error


It’s not Obama’s fault that we don’t have immigration reform. That is the fault of the white supremacist Republican Party. There’s really nothing Obama could have done to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Obama however has tremendous discretion over how to enforce immigration laws and his aggressive implementation of those laws leading to record deportation has severely depressed Latino belief in the American political system at a time when Democrats not only should be wrapping up Latino voters for the next generation but need them in the midterm elections. The decision to implement the laws in this way, I guess an attempt to show he was tough on undocumented migration to buy rhetorical points he could then use to pass legislative reform, was a huge error, both morally and politically. And it is making a difference that hurts Democrats.

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  • joe from Lowell

    The “record number of deportations” is a false claim. As the annual reports on enforcement actions show, the number of people living in the United States who have been deported has dropped under Obama. It’s the number of people caught while crossing the border and send back that has increased. This increase has nothing to do with any policy choices Obama has made, but with the border security bill passed by the Republican Congress in 2006. (It’s amazing to me how many people on the left have forgotten about the fence and the drones and the National Guard on the border and the increase in border enforcement agents that came out of that bill. It was one of the most hotly-debated issues in the country at the time).

    To the extent that Obama has used his executive discretion to influence immigration enforcement, it has not been “to show he was tough on undocumented migration,” but to take actions like Dream Through Executive Order to reduce immigration enforcement.

    There could be an interesting post written about the “secure the border first” strategy for passing comprehensive immigration reform that led some Democrats to support the 2006 bill, but I guess It just makes for a more easily digested story to put the President in the middle of everything.

    • Barry

      “It’s amazing to me how many people on the left have forgotten about the fence and the drones and the National Guard on the border and the increase in border enforcement agents that came out of that bill. It was one of the most hotly-debated issues in the country at the time.”

      And it’s amazing to me how the right still whines about lack of enforcement.

      • joe from Lowell

        Now that you mention it, the right has shifted its whining from complaining about border enforcement to complaining about a lack of deportations of people living in the United States. I haven’t seen a good “Hezbollah sneaking a nuke across the Mexican border” rant in years.

      • Gwen

        “Lack of enforcement” seems to increasingly be code for “why are their still Mexicans here?”

        • aidian

          Yeah, usually. But ya know, it’s impossible to say that this country is actually committed to removing illegal immigrants when there were almost a dozen latino looking, spanish speaking guys waiting around the Home Depot parking lot yesterday afternoon in hopes of picking up some day labor.

          I’m sure at some point there’s been a legal resident or citizen picking up day labor jobs at HD, but I’ve never seen it.

          Of course, the single most effective way to enforce immigration laws is with the use of ‘no-match letters’ from the social security administration. However, the agency stopped issuing them in August of 2012. The reason given was budgetary, but I’ve read they save about $600,000 by not issuing them anymore….which seems a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of cash we waste on cops in this country.

          • joe from Lowell

            I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who claims that this country is actually committed to removing illegal immigrants.

            It’s pretty much universally acknowledged that virtually nobody actually desires to do what it would take to make that happen.

            12 million people would be the largest forced migration in human history. Yeah, that’s pretty unpopular across the spectrum.

          • Nathanael

            All in line with Republican policies — they want to make sure that illegal immigrants continue to provide low-wage labor to business. :sigh:

    • No real point to this, I just thought it was interesting, but when I was in the Rio Grande Valley in January and February I drove along the river to see what it was like. I was probably never closer than 1/8 of a mile to the fence, so maybe up close it looks a lot different, but I was surprised at how small it looked. Also, there are openings in it about every mile or so. I’m sure it makes it easier to patrol the border (and to funnel people through the openings), but it wasn’t any Berlin Wall.

      • rea

        The openings in the fence are supposed to allow for the passage of wildlife, but they don’t really work. The border fence is something of an environmental disaster.

    • I think the attitude is just that when people working for Obama’s administration do something, Obama owns it. “The Cossacks work for the czar” and so on.

      Of course, Obama is constitutionally required to enforce the law, and he’s always seemed to take that obligation very seriously, so he actually only has so much wiggle room here.

      • joe from Lowell

        I think the attitude is just that when people working for Obama’s administration do something, Obama owns it. “The Cossacks work for the czar” and so on.

        A lot of people do have that attitude.

        Applying this reasoning to a system of government with three co-equal branches, in which federal agencies operate in accordance with mandates given to them by Congress, has some shortcomings.

        If you’re going to give Obama blame for the border enforcement actions of the ICE, you need to be consistent and thank George W. Bush for sending out all of those housing vouchers, Medicaid reimbursements, and Social Security checks.

        If you’re going to single out the President for his use of executive power to influence policy, you actually need to be able to cite instances of him issuing directives to alter a policy. Like this. If you can’t do that, then there is a serious flaw in your attribution of the policy to the Oval Office.

        • Nathanael

          George W. Bush actually sent out $300 – $600 checks to the vast majority of Americans. It was a very smart move and I was seriously afraid of its effects.

        • Nathanael

          Joe, Truman had the attitude that you dislike.

    • Gregor Sansa

      This may be true. However, it’s also true that early in Obama’s term, there were several big deportations from inside the country. Living in Guatemala at the time, I certainly got the feeling that he had stepped up enforcement; and I don’t think anybody who got that feeling at the time has seen any clear reason to change their mind. So even if JfL is right and Obama does not currently deserve Erik’s criticism, the fact remains that he has at least seemed to deserve it at some point, and you can’t blame most Latinos (both inside and outside the US) for feeling that Obama’s let them down in this area.

  • For a very smart man, Obama has a slow learning curve.

    For too long, he kept trying to reach out to the Republicans, hoping to find some middle ground.
    And all they did, was move further to the right, and try to cut-off the hands that he was holding out.

    • Nobdy

      They’ll come around, ny day now, if we just keep giving them what they want and treating them seriously surely they will see the beauty of ompromise. We just have to reach out more.

      • jim, some guy in iowa


        is that deliberate? I like it either way

    • FlipYrWhig

      He also needs to reach out to blue-collar Democrats who are skeptical of immigrants and immigration, and the politicians they elect. A fair number of Democrats believe in the same unsavory things that Republicans do. So it’s not always across the aisle, it can also be between the rows on the same side of the aisle.

    • joe from Lowell

      I don’t think Obama has made any serious effort to get Republican support for an initiative since the ARRA.

      As opposed to branding himself as someone who tries to reach across party lines.

  • Maybe Latino enthusiasm is in the tank. But that NYT article was a joke. The main proof of Latinos not wanting to vote was some organizer saying she went up to something like 50 people and none of them want to vote. Maybe that’s not representative of anything. Maybe she’s just a shitty organizer.

    That article was a classic example of why FiveThirtyEight had such an easy time making pundits and a lot of journalists look really dumb.

    • joe from Lowell

      I think perhaps that empirical rigor is not the driving force here.

    • Gwen

      If Latinos were known as “people who are likely to vote in large numbers,” then maybe this article would have a point.

      That it’s hard to GOTV in the Latino community is difficult… that’s hardly breaking news. And definitely not Obummer’s fault.

      • Right. In fact, i think the more surprising story is that the black vote dropped off less in 2010 than had previously been the case in mid-terms, and that in 2012 black turnout exceeded white turnout. That’s a profound change in US elections, and it’s not entirely nor do I think even mostly tied to Obama. I do, though, think it’s tied to GOP efforts to make it harder for black people to vote. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest it’s actually energized black voters even more.

        • Nathanael

          That all seems true… Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that the effect has been to increase turnout in the areas where the voter suppression *wasn’t* successful implemented, leading to a greater bifurcation in the voting patterns by district.

  • Anonymous

    Ha ha ha, That’s rich. Obama only cares about illegals if they can score a path to full citizenship and vote for democrats. If a bill with a path to citizenship wont pass both houses (it won’t) then people who can’t vote are really no use to him.

    • IOW, you think Kenyan-born Obama is a self-hating “illegal,” right?

      • Obama didn’t need more votes to win either election to the Presidency.

        Please try not to think about what I said too much, you’ll get a brain hernia otherwise, dear Jen-Bob.

        • Malaclypse

          This is K, not Jennie. The run-on sentences and bad capitalization is a K tell.

  • Anonymous

    No, obama obviously doesn’t need votes anymore, but it’s looking like Hillary will. More votes are always better. But if the the Mexicans trying to get here illegally can never vote, it makes sense obama would send them back to try again, hopefully when they have a path to citizenship.

    • The great thing about this, ahem, “argument” is that it’s already refuted by the administration ratcheting back deportations, and will be further this summer if, as many expect, he takes executive action to reduce the number of deportations, by, for instance, not deporting the parents of DREAMers.

      • joe from Lowell

        The great thing about this, ahem, “argument” is that it’s already refuted by the administration ratcheting back deportations

        In my experience, pointing out that fact does very little to alter the arguments people make.

        • Lee Rudolph

          In my experience, pointing out that facts does very little to alter the arguments people make about anything.


          • joe from Lowell

            Very true.

            I cling to the hope that pointing out these facts will, however, have some impact on those reading the false arguments.

            That’s probably a tad too optimistic itself, though.

          • N__B

            Try using “facts”. They seem to work wonders for the repubs.

        • Bloix

          Obama has nothing to do with the number of deportations! That was Congress and the President has no power to do anything about it!

          And also, too, Obama is ratcheting back the number of deportations!

          • joe from Lowell

            Loud noises!

            And Punctuation!

          • joe from Lowell

            Words like “nothing” are usually a crutch for disabled thinkers.

            • Bloix

              Obama cannot fail. He can only be failed.

              • Bitter Scribe

                Purity trolls cannot fail, because no one and nothing will be pure enough, ever.

                • Bloix

                  JfL, LR and BS, what do you think:

                  1) Obama has no control over the number of deportations. Congress passed laws and the administration is enforcing them. Obama as president has no power to alter the effects of the law.


                  2) Obama is currently changing course and ratcheting back the number of deportations by acting unilaterally using his powers as president.

                  As far as I can tell, you believe that both are true. At the same time.

                  If you don’t think they’re both true, please enlighten us. And no, “look over there, it’s Halley’s Comet!” is not a reasonable response.

                • joe from Lowell

                  As far as I can tell, you believe that both are true. At the same time.

                  Bloix, look back at my comment. Tell me if you see any distinction in there between different enforcement actions.

              • joe from Lowell

                Obama cannot fail. He can only be failed.

                And to think I would accuse you of using a crutch.

                • Bloix

                  One or two? It’s an easy question. Do you think he’s ratcheting back now? If you do, that means he could have ratcheted back before but chose not to. If you don’t, then Dana Houle, who you agreed with, is wrong. Which means you’re wrong.

                  Look, you’re stuck. You’ve taken contradictory positions. Not the end of the world, just admit it.

  • shazam

    I get that you dudes like to roll with the hardline political strategy routine, but maybe this, “Democrats not only should be wrapping up Latino voters for the next generation”, could come after some perfunctory recognition of the human suffering at stake here? Or, at least, after the word “morally”?

  • Martin Snyder

    Loomis you live in a state of denial. Obama does not enforce the laws harshly for rhetorical effect; he does so because he is a conservative man who believes the laws should be enforced to the letter. A harsh man even.

    Name one.single.entrenched.interest. Obama has ever taken on. Yea, that’s the sine qua non of a conservative. Duh.

    • junker

      How about coal and other power plants with the new EPA regulations?

      • Also took advantage of the auto bailout to reshape that industry. Student loans. That’s just a few off the top of my head.

        • Nathanael

          Student loans are still not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Obama really hasn’t made any improvement in the situation there; he’s just made it a bit easier for students to become debt slaves.

          I will give Obama a little credit for the EPA regulations.

          He was forced to do that because he *LOST A SUPREME COURT LAWSUIT* filed by *MULTIPLE STATE GOVERNMENTS*. That’s the sort of thing where not doing it could actually lead to civil war.

          Even after that, he stonewalled and delayed for years on the EPA regs. So I can’t give him much credit.

          Obama’s like… oh, I don’t know, maybe President Taft, speaking charitably. He’ll do the right thing if it doesn’t cost him anything *and* very powerful forces are aligned to crush him if he doesn’t.

    • Dr Ronnie James, DO

      The famously gay-friendly United States Marine Corps is not tough enough for you?

      • Nathanael

        Actually, the Marines kind of are famously gay-friendly compared to the Army and Air Force, which were the problem forces.

        On this matter, Obama finally agreed to obey court orders and abandon a blatantly indefensible policy after gay protesters chained themselves to the White House fence. Repeatedly.

        He gets very little credit for that.

    • joe from Lowell

      I wonder, do you think ending the F-22 project, canceling the missile defense bases, and withdrawing from the permanent bases in Iraq were more popular among the uniformed military command, the civilians, or the defense contractors?

      • Martin Snyder

        Please, all that F22 money essentially went to the F35, which had to have it, the Iraqi’s said get out, and there was zero entrenched US interest in paying to stay, and the actual entrenched interests on missile defense said to cool it, because it was bad for business. And the gay Marines? Took him YEARS to come out for simple equality and again, who is the entrenched interest there? A bunch of sailors he legally commands or a major part of his political base?

        Name a real entrenched interest he has taken on. Pharma? Hospitals? Insurance? Wall Street? Student loans how? environment how, in a real sense? Auto industry? What?

        • joe from Lowell

          Oh, look, words.

          • Gregor Sansa

            Goalposts, too.

  • LeeEsq

    Obama has done a lot within his power to decrease the number of deportations. After the DREAM Act failed, he had USCIS implement DACA to allow people who came over as minors to at least have some sort of minor status even if it is not a full greencard. His administration has also encouraged Trial Attorneys to exercise greater discretion over prosecuting immigrants in removal proceedings. This allows for lots of cases to be administratively closed if the Trial Attorney agrees to this. Administrative closure of case protects against removal proceedings.

  • Bloix

    So Obama is actually deporting fewer undocumented immigrants than prior administrations, thus opening himself up to bashing from the right,


    but the administration claims to be deporting more undocumented immigrants than prior administrations, thus alienating his Hispanic supporters,


    It’s not like anyone could possibly have seen this was going to be a problem, like say four years ago:

    Deporting almost 800,000 illegal immigrants might antagonize some Democrats and Latino voters, Obama’s skeptical supporters said the president told them, but stepped-up enforcement was the only way to buy credibility with Republicans and generate bipartisan support for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.


  • Epicurus

    This is a non-argument, in my opinion. As the President himself stated, he MUST enforce the laws passed by the Congress and signed in to law. Granted, he has some discretion, which he has exercised. As the first commenter noted,this “largest historical number of deportations” is a gross exaggeration. And let’s stop blaming Mr. Obama for the fact that these people are so desperate to leave their own birthplaces has much more to do with horrible inequality of opportunity and capital in so many of the countries they are fleeing. Let’s try looking at the reasons why some choose to emigrate, not spend our days crying over the fact that when you enter this country illegally (or overstay your visa) you have broken the law. Period, end of story. Dreamers are a different case naturally, as a child can hardly choose whether or not to travel with their family. Taken to its logical conclusion, some would seem to urge completely open borders and no enforcement of immigration laws. That way lies madness.

    • Nathanael

      President Obama is, of course, lying.

      Obama chooses to violate the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress every time he wiretaps every American, and every time he murders with a drone some innocent person who happens to be carrying a cellphone, and every day that he imprisons people without trial at Guantanamo Bay.

      Obama breaks the law all the time. He can break whatever law he wants — he’s made it very clear.

  • Anonymous

    And because he lost Florida in ’12?

  • Nathanael

    This is typical for Obama, Erik.

    Obama also supported G W Bush’s fascistic policies of wiretapping everyone and murdering people with drones. This has chased away another large bloc of voters.

    He also made permanent the Bush tax cuts for the obscenely rich, in exchange for a mess of pottage. This has certainly ticked off a lot of activists.

    You’ve got to understand: Obama is not on your side. He’s on G. W. Bush’s side. He’s made it very clear, *over and over again*.

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