Conservatives denounce new deportation policy as ‘backdoor amnesty’

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), via Flickr/ryanjreilly

Republicans and immigration enforcement hawks are denouncing the Obama administration’s newly announced policy of selective deportation. The policy would have the government evaluate each person currently in deportation proceedings on a case-by-case basis using multiple criteria which were outlined in a memo issued by ICE director John Morton in June. Many undocumented immigrants without criminal records would be allowed to indefinitely stay in the United States and apply for work permits.

House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith (Texas) told the New York Times, “The Obama administration has again made clear its plan to grant backdoor amnesty to illegal immigrants.” Smith has sponsored legislation that would remove the administration’s capacity to exercise discretion when choosing who to deport for the duration of Obama’s current term.

In a statement, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, whose state passed an immigration enforcement law of unprecedented stringency in 2010, issued a statement saying, “The Obama administration cannot get its amnesty schemes through Congress, so now it has resorted to implementing its plans via executive fiat.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a prominent restrictionist organization which was influential in pressuring Senate Republicans to kill the 2007 immigration reform effort under President Bush, issued a statement calling the new policy an “administrative amnesty and a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration policy without approval by Congress.”

FAIR, which has been deemed a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists (including its founder, John Tanton, whom FAIR has distanced itself from), has repeatedly accused the Obama administration of various attempts at “amnesty.” In the past year, Morton’s memo and the Obama-supported attempt by Senate Democrats to pass the DREAM Act during the lame-duck session were both decried as amnesty. Dan Stein, president of FAIR, has argued that the Hispanic Caucus voted for the Affordable Care Act only because of a promise of “mass amnesty” by Obama.

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