President Obama's Man-Caused Disaster
By RICH LOWRY
As a defender of the nation's borders, President Barack Obama is a hell of a pool player. Obama's recent game in a Denver bar with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was bright and cheery, as one would expect of a president who didn't have any depressing visits to frightened ranchers, overwhelmed border agents or desperate migrants on his future itinerary.
The first rule in a crisis for any executive is put on his windbreaker and boots and get out on the ground. President George W. Bush didn't do it soon enough after Hurricane Katrina and, politically, could never make up for it, no matter how many times he visited New Orleans. Obama's bizarre resistance to visiting the border on his fundraising swing out West fueled talk of the influx as Obama's "Katrina moment."
The Katrina analogy is over the top because the border influx isn't a deadly catastrophe swallowing an American city. It also is too generous because Bush didn't do anything to bring on Hurricane Katrina, whereas Obama's policies are responsible for the influx of immigrants. It is, in the argot of his administration, a "man-caused disaster."
According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of immigrants younger than 18 who were deported or turned away from ports of entry declined from 8,143 in 2008 to 1,669 last year. There were 95 minors deported from the entire interior of the country last year. At the same time, the number of unaccompanied alien children arriving from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras exploded from less than 4,000 several years ago to 40,000 since last October.
The White House brushes off criticism that Obama is avoiding the border as mere "optics," in contrast to its highly substantive focus. But it is still not taking the crisis seriously. The nearly $4 billion the president is requesting is not fundamentally about enforcement that will reverse and end the tide, but about managing the influx.
A devastating critique by the Center for Immigration Studies notes that about half of the money goes to the Department of Health and Human Services "for acquisition, construction, improvement, repair, operation and maintenance of real property and facilities." The enforcement portion of the request, according to CIS, "is not truly geared toward removal," but instead to "recouping costs for temporary detention and subsequent transporting of aliens."
The administration's reaction to the crisis is just another in a long series of acts of bad faith on immigration. It is asking Congress for more money for its priorities at the same time the president is promising, in effect, to suspend yet more immigration laws in response to the failure of "comprehensive immigration reform."
Republicans in Congress should crumple up the president's border request in a ball and start over, with an emphasis on holding migrants near the border and working through their cases quickly to address the short-term crisis, and provisions for interior enforcement to address illegal immigration more broadly.
Of course, even if such a bill were to pass and to be signed into law, that'd be no guarantee that the president of the United States would enforce it. That speaks to an entirely different man-caused disaster.
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.