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Immigration Is Down, Enforcement Is Up, but Harsh Rhetoric Remains

The right constantly accuses President Obama of being weak on immigration enforcement, but his administration is actually deporting record numbers of illegal immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimates that its deportations this year will increase by nearly 10 percent over the Bush administration’s 2008 total. The agency also has been auditing companies at a rate about four times higher than in 2008.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that supporters of enforcement are satisfied with Obama administration immigration policies, as Peter Slevin reports at The Washington Post:

While the administration focuses on some illegal immigrants with criminal records, others are allowed to remain free, creating a “sense of impunity. As long as they keep their heads down, they’re in the clear. That’s no way of enforcing immigration law,” said Mark Krikorian, a supporter of stricter policies with the Center for Immigration Studies.

“Even the ones who haven’t committed murder or rape or drug offenses, all of them have committed federal felonies,” Krikorian said. He favors employer audits, but also the roundups that Obama has largely abandoned.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) similarly believes the administration is showing “apathy toward robust immigration enforcement.” He said at a House hearing in March that the approach is nothing more than “selective amnesty.”

Lower rates of illegal immigration have not softened harsh rhetoric from the right, either. Gregory Rodriguez at the LA Times questions why immigration has become such a big issue this year even though illegal immigration is down:

The easy answer, of course, is that the economy is tough and historically people have looked for targets to blame for their feelings of impotence.

But today I think there are other contributing factors. The political discourse overall is pretty horrific, and while immigration has always brought out the worst in people, today’s polarized climate only makes matters worse.

Furthermore, the right wing, where much of the anti-immigrant frenzy comes from, no longer has an authoritative voice of reason pressing for decency on the issue. Four years ago, after President George W. Bush unsuccessfully launched his own effort at comprehensive immigration reform, he warned against “harsh, ugly rhetoric.” Today, Bush is hardly heard from and the right has an “open borders” policy on over-the-top rhetoric. [...]

There may be those who see hatred as a justifiable means to an end. Perhaps they hope that all this harsh rhetoric will keep even more illegal immigrants at home. But they’d be silly to think that such invective only makes life harder for immigrants. Unfortunately, it also actively degrades our culture, our public square and our democracy.

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