Don't expect immigration reform under this president

By Paul Mirengoff

Paul Mirengoff, a retired attorney in Washington, D.C., writes for the Power Line blog.

There's been much speculation about whether the Obama administration has a Plan B ready in case the Supreme Court strikes down all or some of Obamacare. But it's clear that the White House was ready when the court rejected its challenge to the constitutionality of an Arizona law requiring local law enforcement officers, during routine stops, to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the country illegally.

The White House promptly reacted to the decision, which also struck down three important provisions through which Arizona attempted to counteract the federal government's unwillingness to do anything much about the flood of illegal aliens into the State. First, and predictably, Obama renewed his call for comprehensive immigration reform. Sen. Harry Reid quickly echoed the White House, tweeting that "[Republicans] must join [Democrats] to forge fair, tough, practical solutions."

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is Member supported public media. Show your support today, donate, and ensure access to local news and in-depth conversations for everyone.

Next, the administration announced measures designed to undermine the portion of the Arizona law that was upheld, unanimously, by the Supreme Court. The Department of Homeland Security said it would exclude Arizona from a program known as 287(g), which allows the feds to deputize local officials to make immigration-based arrests. A Homeland Security official explained that the administration finds such agreements "not useful" in states that have Arizona-style laws. I guess the program is "useful" only in states that aren't taking meaningful measures to identify illegal aliens.

Accordingly, local police in Arizona will have to rely on federal officials to arrest illegal aliens. But federal officials have made it clear that the feds will not respond to calls from Arizona law enforcement unless the person detained meets certain criteria, such as being wanted for a felony. Being an illegal alien is not enough. As Obama showed with his unilateral mini-DREAM act, this administration is no longer interested in enforcing the immigration laws except perhaps against illegal aliens who are shown to have engaged in felonious conduct.

In addition, the Justice Department set up a hotline through which people can complain about having their immigration status checked by Arizona law enforcement officials. Obama thus hopes to drum up complaints against Arizona law enforcement agents. He wants to make the federal government a party to the harassment of those trying to do what Obama won't - enforce the law. Obama hopes to intimidate them into not using their authority to address the severe problem of illegal immigration -- authority granted by the state legislature and upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court.

Given all of this, it's quite clear that the Republicans should say "hell, no" to Obama's call for comprehensive immigration reform. Republicans must not permit themselves to be coerced into writing a new immigration law by Obama's refusal to enforce the law we have.

Moreover, what is the point of legislating with a lawless administration? Legislation on an issue like immigration requires compromise, and that's fine - I have no objection in principle to compromising. But suppose a compromise is reached. This president has demonstrated that his response would likely be to ignore the provisions the Republicans insisted upon - because ignoring them is "the right thing to do."

Immigration reform, if it is to occur, must await the election of a president who, unlike Obama, is willing to enforce the law as written, not just the portions of the law he finds palatable. Indeed, I'm tempted to say that the passage of compromise legislation on any important issue should await the election of such a president.

This essay first appeared on Power Line.