Democrats Call for New Amnesty

Ian M. Smith, The Hill, January 14, 2016

Last Friday, Congressional Democrats sent out a petition calling on the president to grant mass amnesty to over a million illegal aliens from Central America, citing the region’s high crime rates and the dangers faced by potential deportees. Instead of asking the president to use his purported mass deferred action authority, Democrats are asking he grant the illegal aliens so-called Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a similar, albeit statute-based, program created by Congress in 1990. But similar to his previous blanket amnesties, using TPS in this situation would be unprecedented and legally questionable.

As its name implies, TPS was created to ‘temporarily’ stall the deportation of illegal aliens whose home country is ravaged by war or natural disaster. It initially only applied to then-war-torn El Salvador; however, the program’s since grown to include 11 other countries. And although the relief is supposed to be “temporary,” TPS-grants have been consistently renewed by DHS even when the problems back home have long since subsided.

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{snip} Under section 244(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the DHS Secretary can exercise grants of TPS on three grounds: situations of ongoing war that pose a serious threat to a potential deportee; situations of natural disaster so disruptive that the foreign state requests it; and under so-called “extraordinary and temporary conditions” with the added caveat that a temporary amnesty not be “contrary to the national interest of the United States.” For the first seven years of the program, all grants were made according to the first ground. Illegal aliens from Rwanda living in the US in 1995, for instance, were granted TPS following that country’s ethnic civil war which killed an estimated one million people. As for natural disaster grounds, Honduras and El Salvador themselves received TPS grants following severe flooding and earthquakes, respectively.

But in each of the dozen grants of TPS since 1990, never has an illegal alien received deportation relief because his or her home country had a high crime-rate. Congressman Luis Gutierrez seemed to recognize this fact when he told a rally outside the White House on Friday, “There is no difference between this and a hurricane–none.” In any case, it isn’t clear how much worse Central America has become in recent years, if at all. According to the Congressional Research Service, the latest crime figures actually show murder rates steady or declining in the region.

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In their lobbying push, Democrats will no doubt stick to their “don’t punish the families” narrative–a highly cynical exploitation of the American public’s sentimental values. But this sort of emotional blackmail does have its limits, especially in election years. When President Carter extended his “open-arms and open-heart” policy to Cuban illegal aliens during the Mariel boatlift, over 100,000 hit Florida’s shores, causing a huge public backlash and partly costing him, in his own opinion, the 1980 election. Similarly, President Obama is losing control of our borders while lecturing Americans that “We are a better nation than one that deports innocent kids.” But voters might tell his party this election that we’re also a better nation than one that lures them here.

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