Photo: President Obama
Now that Republicans have control of the House, they’re jumping right into the battle for more aggressive immigration enforcement and are even calling on the president to being immigration raids at the workplace again.
Despite the fact that under the Obama administration, the number of people being deported has risen for the last two years, Republicans are calling for a return to George W.-era workplace raids. Though the president has pushed for citizenship being granted to worthy young adults caught up in the consequences of their parents’ actions, the right is now demanding more severe enforcement (raids) without a path to legal status. Since the end of Bush’s presidency, the number of arrests resulting from worksite raids for immigration-related offenses has dropped 70 percent.
Right now, Democrats hold the senate majority and the president has the power of veto, so House Republicans are unable to force a change in immigration policy, but with the 2012 elections right around the corner, the GOP is reportedly planning to hold hearings to fulminate against the current administration for allegedly allowing undocumented immigrants to take the jobs of Americans.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said that as the U.S. unemployment rate sits at around 9 percent, “it is hard to imagine a worse time to cut worksite enforcement efforts by more than half.” The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee added, “Citizens and legal immigrants should not be forced to compete with illegal workers for jobs.”
During his State of the Union Address, President Obama stated that the time for Democrats and Republicans to work together on immigration reform is now, and said he wants to work with all parties to “address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort.”
Opponents of the workplace raids say they are far too expensive for taxpayers, as some of the larger raids cost upwards of $10 million each. Critics add that court dockets are often overflowing after such raids, and Kumar Kibble, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director, told lawmakers Wednesday, that each deportation costs the federal government about $12,500, so it makes more sense to target the employers giving the jobs, rather than each individual
Under the Obama administration, the number of employer audits done by ICE has increased four-fold, resulting in an increase in investigations and arrests of people and companies knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants. In fiscal year 2010, businesses were fined $6.9 million, while in 2008 only $675,000.
Director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, Daniel Griswold, said, “If we continue with just enforcement only, I think we will be here for years and years dealing with the same problem. It is simple supply and demand. We have demand for these workers and the supply of American workers to fill these jobs is shrinking.”