A top immigration official responded to criticism of a program to remove dangerous illegal immigrants.
John Morton, an assistant secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, wrote in a letter to the New York Times that a new federal fingerprinting program has led to the identification of more than 11,000 arrested illegal immigrants “charged with or convicted of serious crimes like rape and murder.”
His letter was in response to a Times editorial last month calling for immigration reform and saying that it was wrong for Janet Napolitano, President Obama's homeland security secretary, to “boast” about the program known as Secure Communities. (The Mecklenburg County Sheriff will soon be using the program in conjunction with its 287(g) program.) The Times editorial board said Napolitano failed to point out that minor violators were also caught up in a program that is aimed at more serious offenders.
"Laws must be enforced, but doing it this way hurts the innocent, creating a short line from Hispanic to immigrant to illegal to criminal. Having brown skin, speaking Spanish, seeming nervous in the presence of flashing police lights — none of those things say anything about whether you are here illegally or not, are deport able or not. But any one of them can be enough to get you pulled over in jurisdictions across the country” -- The New York Times editorial board.Obama says he wants a similar form of immigration reform that the Times editorial board calls for. Napolitano and Morton point out that reform is necessary, but not, as Morton wrote, “without also providing smart and effective enforcement tools.”
The back and forth highlights the two public faces Obama is trying to present as he seeks to curry favor with opposing sides of the immigration debate.
To pass any immigration reform bill, Obama needs to convince citizens that 1.) it’s necessary and good for the country to allow law-abiding illegal immigrants a chance to earn legal status and 2.) that the government can actually control the borders and curb immigrant-related crime.
As can be seen by the Times editorial board, it's not going to be easy.
"President Obama has repeatedly assured 12 million illegal immigrants that he will fight to give them the chance to earn the right to stay. His administration should not undermine that noble effort by carelessly lending credibility to the view that the future citizens living and working among us are a class of criminals."