John Mitchell, Attorney General under Richard Nixon (and later convicted Watergate felon) once said, with regard to enforcing the civil rights laws, "Watch what we do, not what we say". In his January 24 State of the Union speech, President Obama squeezed in just three short paragraphs about immigration near the end. He made four points: 1) he would sign the DREAM Act if it passes Congress, 2) foreign workers with needed skills should be allowed to stay in the US longer, 3) Congress should pass comprehensive immigration reform, and 4) we should be tough on illegal immigration.
No one will dispute that on the last of the above points, the president's actions have corresponded to his words. The record number of almost 400,000 people deported duting each year of his administration can testify to that. But on the first three points, discrepancies between word and deed are all too obvious.
The president did little or nothing to try to persuade Congress to pass the DREAM Act. That bill would have passed the Senate with only 5 more Democratic votes. As far as I am aware, there is no record of any attempt by the president to bring the 5 Democrats who either voted agasinst the bill or failed to show up to vote for it into line.
With regard to skilled immigration, we only have to ask: was it easier to get H-1B, L-1 or other business and professional worker visas under President Obama, or under his Republican predecessor? Which president has sent more investigators to harass employers of skilled foreign workers whose visas have already been approved?
As for the chance of Congress passing comprehensive immigration reform in the current poisonous political environment, someone, I believe, has compared that to the chance of a peace and mutual assistance agreement being adopted between the US and Iran. Nowhere did the president mention his own broad administrative power over immigration policy and enforcement.
To be fair, President Obama is making some use of his executive authority over immigration enforcement through administrative review and termination of a comparatively few deportation proceedings. But this is only a timid, hesitant step, one which does not imply any reduction in the total number of deportations.
And it is highly disingenuous, to say the least, for him to complain that we should stop deporting students who would have been protected by the DREAM Act, as well as skilled foreign workers, while his administration continues to expel people who fall within one or the other of these two categories in order to meet politically inspired numerical deportation targets.
Most important of all, the president made no mention of the attempts by immigration opponents to use immigration as an issue to divide America more than ever along racial lines. By deporting record numbers of Latinos and Asians, and making legal visas more difficult to obtain, he is doing more than any other recent president to appease those who want to slam America's gates shut against minority immigrants. "Watch what we do, not what we say."
About The Author
Roger Algaseis a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.