What’s the point of delaying the deportation review?

Deportations continue. (ICE photo)

No changes here. (ICE photo)

The White House recently moved slightly toward reconsidering deportation policies that have removed a record number of immigrants from the United States. Now even that reconsideration (not even a policy change) is on pause:

President Barack Obama has asked his Homeland Security chief to hold off on completing a review of U.S. deportation policies until the end of the summer, senior White House officials said Tuesday, in a move aimed at salvaging any hopes for Congress to act on immigration this year. … “The president really wants to maximize the opportunity to get a permanent solution enacted, which requires Congress,” said Cecilia Munoz, the director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council.

A permanent solution certainly does require Congress, but most congressional Republicans still don’t seem compelled. In the meantime, absent some under-the-radar changes, problematic deportation policies continue. Why? So the president can show Republicans that they can “trust” him on immigration, and that he won’t move until they’ve slammed the door super hard.

Here is the inevitable conclusion after five years of immigration back-and-forth under Obama: The “can we trust the Administration?” line is not genuine, nor is any hand-wringing about the administration. Chuck Schumer already called this out back in February, proposing that an agreed reform be implemented entirely during the next administration. (Necessarily, under any bill, this would mostly be the case anyway.) Of course, that proposal got the conversation nowhere, because the conversation is not really about the administration.

Seriously, guys, we can be trusted. (Flickr user katerkate, Creative Commons.)

Tell your congressman we can be trusted! (Flickr user katerkate, Creative Commons.)

The only really significant variable in whether immigration reform passes appears to be whether enough Republicans are comfortable enacting some kind of broad legalization. This has everything to do with their own primary voters and nothing to do with anything Obama could do, after five years of record enforcement, to build “trust” or give them “space.” (Or with how much security is piled onto an eventual reform bill.)

If the administration proceeded in making deportation more humane, it might provide those Republican congressmen a useful talking point in rejecting reform. But would it have any effect on the fate of a nearly dead bill?

Instead, maybe moving ever so slightly forward on changes to deportation policy might actually show Republicans that they can’t get their preferred policies without cooperating on a reform proposal. This will not work in the short term, and its long-term success is hardly guaranteed, but this is also apparently true of the strategy that if you enforce the law in a way closer to what Republicans want, then compromise will eventually become immanent. Meanwhile immigration policy is still a problem, which executive action might marginally (but helpfully) address.

So, what exactly is delaying the deportation review going to achieve?


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