As the clock ticks on the fiscal cliff and partisan bickering puts the nation on edge, President Barack Obama stated he would use his upcoming State of the Union address to introduce this year’s legislation agenda.
Among the bevy of problems desperately in need of solving, fixing our broken immigration system will hold top priority, Obama said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
America’s broken immigration system, like the broken health care apparatus and the broken tax structure, is a problem that absolutely needs addressing. However, there is little reason for optimism regarding real reform, unless our pathetically paralyzed government gets its act together and learns to compromise.
Almost 11 million immigrants currently live in the country illegally, according to the New York Times. That is 11 million people who have built a life in the United States and live in constant fear of being torn away from their homes and families.
They have good reason to fear deportation. Under Obama’s administration, the United States has annually set new deportation records, deporting 409,849 people in the 2012 fiscal year alone, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Since he took office in 2008, the government has deported around 1.5 million people.
The administration points to these numbers as examples of a job well done. The truth is a bit more complicated. Convicted criminal aliens account for 225,390 or about 55 percent of all deportations last year. The Obama administration is supposedly prioritizing “felons, repeat violators of immigration laws, people who have recently crossed U.S. borders illegally and those who pose a national security threat,” according to National Public Radio.
Those who were convicted of drug crimes or driving under the influence account for 76,614 of those deported, according to the US Immigrations and Custom Enforcement office; hardly the jaded felons the administration claims them to be.
Not all criminal acts are created equal and would warrant dragging someone away from their families. While people may consider drug crimes morally questionable, the crimes are generally consensual and do not constitute a threat to national security.
Add that to the 184,459 immigrants he government deported despite having no criminal background, and you have 64 percent of total deportations not in line with the ICE priorities.
"This is nothing to be proud of," Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said in a statement. “We must also realize that among these ... are parents and breadwinners ... that are assets to American communities and have committed no crimes."
Outside of the deadlock in Washington, the pressing nature of this issue is starting to dawn on many sectors of the American population. Groups in law enforcement, the religious population, the tech industry and big business have all weighed in on the necessity of reform.
Despite such a unified chorus for reform, politicians in D.C. continue to play politics with the lives of millions. Predictably, the fighting devolves down to party lines.
Obama and the Democrats are pushing for reform via one comprehensive bill, according to the New York Times. They seek to overhaul the entire immigration system, passing needed reforms and ensuring a path towards citizenship for most of the 11 million.
The Republicans, on the other hand, favor a more “piecemeal” approach, a series of immigration bills to tackle specific, narrow issues, such as how to handle visas for science, technology, engineering and math experts, or addressing the issue of students. They are concerned that Obama’s proposed reforms will constitute “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, something the Republicans oppose almost as staunchly as new taxes.
This repartee shows a Congress still focused more on fighting and winning political battles than on actually passing effective legislation.
The Democrats want a big, flashy push toward reform to capitalize on Latino voters, whereas the Republicans want to break reform into smaller components more acceptable to their stalling party members.
Neither side seems too concerned with actually freeing 11 million potential Americans from the burden of inconsistent enforcement of unjust laws.
The 112th Congress passed into history as the least productive congress since the 1940’s, leaving a legacy of unsolved problems thanks to this sort of partisan bickering. As long as every single attempt at reform winds up splitting on party lines, nothing will ever get fixed, and America will continue to suffer from its own incompetence.