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Electioneering aside, it’s clear that the White House does not actually intend to do anything on the immigration front, least of all to put in place the kind of border enforcement that President Obama claims to support. A fair reading of the administration’s true feelings on that issue can be gleaned by its hostile and openly adversarial response to Arizona’s recently enacted law to combat illegal immigration. SB 1070 deputizes Arizona state police to check immigration status of anyone stopped during the commission of a crime or infraction if they are suspected to be in the country illegally. As such, it attempts to do what the federal government is supposed to do but is not: enforce the country’s immigration laws. Yet the Obama administration has gone to war against SB 1070, with the Justice Department now preparing a lawsuit to block the law from going into effect. Laying the groundwork for that suit this week, President Obama condemned the Arizona law as “ill conceived” and “divisive.” That means that the only thing that the White House has done about illegal immigration is to challenge a state that has made a modest attempt to come to grips with the problem.
The administration’s misplaced priorities in this regard are unlikely to change. If the 2011 budget recently unveiled by the Department of Homeland Security is any guide, border enforcement will not be a goal for the administration in the coming year. Some of the largest decreases in funding will affect items like border security fencing and infrastructure. There are, to be sure, cosmetic gestures, such as the 1,200 National Guard troops that Obama ordered to the Southwest border in late May. But their impact on illegal immigration is likely to be negligible. Not only does the 1,200 deployment fall far short of the 6,000 National Guard troops that were stationed on the border under the Bush administration, but the guardsmen have no enforcement capabilities. Among other handicaps, they do not have the authority to arrest illegals crossing the border.
While the president has at least reintroduced the subject of immigration to the national debate, those seeking evidence of a White House focus on reducing illegal immigration would have been disappointed by the president’s speech. They would not have been the only ones. A Wall Street Journal report on the speech noted that Obama “wasn’t interrupted for applause a single time.” Perhaps that’s because the president’s remarks, long on slogans and short on solutions, offered so little to cheer about.
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