Conservatives Show Their Hypocrisy on Immigration

Calls to deport Bieber, and other immigrants, ignore the rule of law


Justin Bieber mugshot
Miami Beach P.D.

Many on the right have been demanding that President Obama crack down on illegal aliens and uphold the rule of law before they'll talk immigration reform. "We are not against all immigration," they insist, "only the illegal kind." If that's the case, they should be defending the right of Canadian singer Justin Bieber to stay in America instead of joining the legally baseless movement demanding his deportation.

Granted, the 19-year-old tween heartthrob is a spoiled brat with multiple crimes against music. (If artistic turpitude were a deportable offense, he would have been on a bus headed north after he released the execrable "Baby.")  But the "Deport Justin Bieber" petition wants the White House to revoke Bieber's O-1 visa, handed to foreigners with extraordinary talent (questionable in his case), for incidents involving drunk driving, simple possession, and throwing eggs at a neighbor's house.

The petition, which was started by some guy on a lark, has already gained 270,000 signatures, forcing the White House to break its silence and respond. But many conservative opponents of comprehensive immigration reform and amnesty are also supporting it. National Review urged its readers to sign it. The Weekly Standard commented that if the White House can't "deport that punk, then how can we ever trust them to control the borders?" Laura Ingraham, a fierce amnesty opponent, gave the petition, which declares Bieber "a terrible influence on our nation's youth," a nod.

But there are problems with this movement more serious than the naïve belief that sending Bieber across the squiggly lines on a map would protect America in the age of globalization. Chief among them is that it would require President Obama to exert executive powers that he constitutionally doesn't have. Indeed, even more than those he asserted to effectively rewrite Obamacare by unilaterally suspending politically inconvenient mandates, something conservatives rightly deplore.

It is a little known fact, but in the last two decades, 10 percent of all deportees have been legals– 68 percent for minor offenses. That's because since 1996, "aggravated felonies" and "moral turpitude" for which foreigners with valid visas and green cards can be deported have become catchall categories including everything from tax evasion to perjury – not just violent crimes, as used to be the case. But one small courtesy that legals do still enjoy is that they have to be convicted before being deported.

Petition supporters claim that if Bieber hasn't yet been convicted, it's only because he's a rich guy who can hire top legal talent to fight for him, a privilege that poor immigrants don't enjoy. That might be true, but that's hardly grounds for waiving his (remaining) due process rights, which is precisely what the White House would have to do in order to evict him right now.

The real irony is that at the same time that right-wingers are encouraging the White House to effectively game the law to eject Bieber, they are also accusing President Obama of gaming the law by not ejecting illegals en masse. But that's a bogus accusation.

The president has earned the dubious distinction as the "Deporter-in-Chief" because he has returned or removed two million illegals – more than any previous president in absolute numbers and at a rate nine times higher than 20 years ago. But anti-immigration conservatives are not impressed. They insist that he's booting out fewer illegals in the interior, focusing instead on fresh arrivals at the border, when he should be doing both.

But here's the problem with that: Thanks to President Bush's and initially Obama's aggressive efforts to evict illegals in the interior, a good portion of the low hanging fruit, arguably, has been picked. The remaining illegals are further under the law enforcement radar. Going after them would require more draconian methods and would produce diminishing bang for the law enforcement buck. In light of that, doesn't it make more sense, even from the odious standpoint of restrictionists, to shift tactics and concentrate on catching immigrants just when they enter? That way fewer will have to be deported from the interior in future, a much more expensive proposition.

Such considerations, however, didn't stop 22 Republican senators last week from dashing off a stern two-page letter to the president, accusing him of displaying an "astonishing disregard for the Constitution [and] the rule of law." His crime? He ordered a review of the nation's deportation policy with the aim of focusing law enforcement resources on violent illegals in the interior while leaving others, especially those with families and American kids, alone, pending immigration reform. This is common sense triage that all executive agencies with finite resources routinely perform. It's also well within the prosecutorial discretion that an executive enjoys.

Conservatives accuse President Obama of bending the law to advance his immigration agenda. That some of them want him to uphold the rule of law when it works against immigrants but not when it works for them, suggests that they are not averse to doing the same.