SAN DIEGO — I keep waiting for just one prominent Republican elected official to condemn in the strongest possible language President Barack Obama’s horrendous record of deporting illegal immigrants.
Next month, the administration is expected to reach the milestone of having deported 2 million people in just over five years. That is more than any administration in the last six decades.
Don’t expect a ceremony at the White House to mark the occasion. After years of bragging to Congress about how many people it was deporting, and pledging to remove more in the future, now the administration wants to ignore the whole issue.
As for Republicans, attacking Obama’s deportation record should be a no-brainer, even for a party that deals with the immigration issue in a way that often comes across as brainless. If it wants to be taken seriously, the GOP has to do better than simply talking tough, obsessing over border security, pandering to nativists, proposing half-baked solutions, spreading misinformation, and retreating from its own “principles” because it doesn’t trust Obama.
What’s new about that? On this issue, Obama has never been trustworthy. And the other side is only figuring this out now?
The president is good at campaigning and bad at governing. So he sees immigration not as an opportunity to show leadership but as an effective weapon to use against Republicans by stirring discontent with Latino voters in election years.
Just recently, Obama expressed confidence that we can reach a solution on immigration before he leaves office. That is typical Obama. He sets ridiculously high expectations, and makes it seem as if an issue is easy to solve so that, when it doesn’t happen, he can blame the GOP.
I realize that Republicans have painted themselves into a corner in railing against “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. They talk a good game about defending the rule of law. Yet, on that score, they’re no more trustworthy than Obama. Their kid-glove treatment of employers who violate laws against hiring illegal immigrants should have long ago revealed them as softies.
You didn’t think that Obama was the first person to ever give employers an extension on fulfilling a government mandate? One minute, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is proposing a bill that will make it mandatory that employers participate in E-Verify, the government-run program that tells them whether prospective employees are legally eligible to work. The next, after well-placed lobbying efforts, Smith is writing up a three-year delay for farmers and ranchers — a dependable Republican constituency.
No wonder people are so cynical about politics.
Still, it just shouldn’t be that difficult for a party that likes to market itself to religious conservatives as defending “family values,” and to tea party conservatives supporting smaller government, to take a principled stand against excessive and misapplied enforcement policies that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of families by dropping foreign-born parents on one side of the border and leaving their U.S.-born children on the other.
With thousands of kids dumped into foster care, and thousands more being raised by one parent because the other was deported, we haven’t even come close to recognizing the long-term damage all this is going to do to those families and to U.S. society as a whole.
Researchers are looking into the trauma it causes. According to Dr. Schuyler Henderson, a pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist at New York University Langone Medical Center who has studied the effects of parental deportation on children, the consequences of these forced separations include “causing or exacerbating mental health problems such as depressive or anxiety disorders” and other forms of emotional distress.
And the number of people affected is much larger than many Americans realize. According to a report that the Department of Homeland Security made to Congress, in the six-month period between January and June of 2011, more than 46,000 people with U.S.-born children were removed from the United States. That’s nearly 8,000 per month.
C’mon Republicans. Live up to your rhetoric about protecting families and making government less intrusive. Under this administration, we have armed agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement busting down doors and taking grandma away in handcuffs. Immigrant families are under siege.
This is what an intrusive government looks like. Isn’t there just one conservative who will stand up and say so?
Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group.