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Why Obama may regret his lax immigration policy

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Posted: Saturday, September 1, 2012 12:00 am

Last week, 10 Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents filed a lawsuit in a Dallas federal court against their superiors, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE director John Morton.

Agents claim that the administration's 2011 prosecutorial discretion memo which eliminates deportation for all but criminal aliens, and President Obama's June 15 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, which grants two-year legal residency, force them to break existing laws. Both programs provide work authorization; at least two million new potential workers will be added to the millions unsuccessfully looking for jobs.

Laws already on the books require agents to process apprehended illegal immigrants. The 1996 Immigrant Responsibility Act mandates that aliens be detained and that no "prosecutorial discretion" can be exercised until the alien appears at adjudication. Only then can an individual case be reviewed and possibly decided in favor of the immigrant. Nevertheless, in violation of federal law, DHS exercises discretion unilaterally.

Boiled down to its bare bones, the agents' suit claims that it's illegal to order federal officers to break laws they swore to uphold.

Pundits interpret the administration's actions as part of an outreach strategy to garner Hispanic votes. And the mainstream media has repeatedly emphasized that Hispanic votes are crucial to Obama's re-election efforts.

The truth, however, is that in a close election any minority demographic voting bloc will be important — senior citizens, veterans, Asians, non-Hispanic Blacks or Hispanics. By a large margin, the most important bloc is non-Hispanic whites. According to an analysis of Census Bureau and Current Population Survey data taken from previous election years, non-Hispanic whites will total 73 percent of voters. By comparison, Hispanics will comprise about nine percent. Since many Hispanics live in California, New York and Illinois, states Obama can't possibly lose, or New Mexico, which has a meager five electoral votes, the administration's game plan is curious. What does Obama gain?

Prosecutorial discretion and DACA represent a significant gamble. Obama could get Hispanic votes but, because of his new policies, also lose larger voting blocs, which in turn would cost him the election.

Factor recent unemployment statistics into the muddled equation, and Obama's questionable strategy turns incomprehensible. DACA allegedly helps young Hispanics by giving them work permits. But converting previously ineligible workers (because of their immigration status) into legal job-seekers is a devastating blow to Hispanic-Americans.

Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics broad measure of unemployment, which includes discouraged workers who have given up the search, during the second quarter of 2012, 19 percent of Hispanic citizens (one in five) were jobless. For Hispanics under 30 with only a high school education — those most likely to compete with illegal immigrants for lower-paying, entry-level jobs in the hospitality industry — the U-6 jobless rate is above 30 percent. Furthermore, the Associated Press reported last year that about 1.5 million (53.6 percent) of American bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 are jobless or underemployed.

I've consistently argued that the essential votes in this year's election are disenchanted and frightened middle-class Republicans and Democrats — the moderates and independents.

Consider this: The non-partisan Sentier Research parsed the latest Census income data. Sentier discovered that the three-and-a-half years of Obama's presidency have done enormous harm to middle-class households.

In January 2009, when Obama entered the Oval Office and shortly before he signed his $800 billion-plus stimulus spending bill, median household income was $54,983. By June 2012, it had tumbled to $50,964, adjusted for inflation. Real income lost: $4,019, or about one month's wages per year.

Given 2012's hard economic reality and the agents' lawsuit, which will keep the White House's prosecutorial discretion programs front and center, Obama's craven blueprint to secure the Hispanic vote could backfire. Ethnic identity politics is a loser.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA Contact him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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