Obama immigration policy isn't amnesty
Rep. Lamar Smith's July 2 commentary ("Obama's move on young illegals violates the law") responds to President Obama's recent decision to put a low priority on the deportation of young illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. It contains misleading statements and innuendo unbefitting someone who holds high elected office.
There are now an estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the country. The Pew Hispanic Center reports that approximately 1.4 million of that group are people under age 30 who were brought here as children by their parents and could be affected by the policy change. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants meet the criteria outlined by the president, which include being currently enrolled in school, having graduated high school, or being an honorably discharged veteran. Both of those numbers account for only a small percentage of the total population of undocumented immigrants.
The young men and women who meet the administration's criteria can apply for a two-year deportation deferral (renewable, but for how many times is unclear) and can apply for a work permit. All applications are to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
The president's updated policy on this group does not constitute "amnesty" according to the normal use of the word as it offers no path to permanent residency or citizenship except through the normal immigration system. This decision on deportation priorities is clearly within the purview of the administration and is not unconstitutional in the view of legal scholars, contrary to Mr. Smith's assertions.
It seems that Smith wants all 11.2 million illegal immigrants deported, and anything short of that amounts to "backdoor amnesty," to use his phrase. This is utter nonsense. Living in the shadow of deportation while being denied the benefits of permanent residency or citizenship is hardly amnesty.
It also should be pointed out that the Obama administration has been anything but lax when it comes to deportation. In fact, deportations have reached record levels during Mr. Obama's term in office, double the annual average number of deportations during his predecessor President George W. Bush's first term and about 30 percent more than Mr. Bush's second term.
Dennis J. Aigner
Professor emeritus of economics
University of California, Irvine