This is What Rule by Decrees Looks Like

The haphazard set of rules and exemptions governing illegal immigration is no substitute for legislative reforms


In a blog post titled "This is What Deportation Looks Like," The Nation's Aura Bogado relays the story of Edi Arma, a father of three facing deportation after a traffic stop in 2009 put him on the radar:

Edi Arma, who's lived in Phoenix, Arizona for thirteen years, is a Guatemalan immigrant fighting deportation. He was originally placed in immigrant detention after a traffic stop in 2009. Arma explained to officials that he's afraid that his family will be killed if they return to Guatemala. Nevertheless, he was issued a deportation order, which he ignored because he wants to stay with his wife and three children—one of which suffers from severe asthma.

Arma's case appears to fit the description for relief under the prosecutorial discretion memo issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton. Issued in June 2011, the memo makes clear that agents can exercise broad flexibility when choosing to seek deportation. Arma's supporters point out that he has no criminal history, he's a breadwinner who cares for all his three children and he faces immediate danger if he's sent to Guatemala—where his own brother was killed just a few years ago.  

It looks like Arma's story is a good example, too, of the fundamental problem of a government that rules not just through law, but through policies, procedures, waivers and exemptions emanating from an ever-growing bureaucracy. President Obama excuses this by saying that Congress won't work with him or that he can't wait for Congress. John Kerry amazingly even deployed the excuse of Congressional gridlock as to why the president can go bomb wherever he pleases. But it's the president's job to work with Congress, not around it.

Of course, it's been decades since comprehensive immigration reform last happened, and there's blame enough for both sides. But President Obama appears to have had ignored legislative attempts at immigration reform in favor of ruling through the bureaucracy of the executive branch. Of note, too, is that Obama did his part to help sink the last attempt at comprehensive immigration reform, President Bush's in 2007, when Obama "pulled off a trifecta: appeasing Big Labor while telling Latinos he supported the bill and blaming Republicans for its failure," according to the Wall Street Journal. It should sound familiar.