Obama’s Big Blunders On Immigration

When it comes to reform, it's been a long year of empty promises.

By Julianne Hing Aug 13, 2010

President Obama signed off on $600 million for border militarization today with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano by his side. The bill was proposed last Thursday by Senators Chuck Schumer and Claire McCaskill, and it passed easily. The House approved the funding boost on Tuesday, and yesterday the Senate finalized the deal.

The extra money will pay for 1,000 Border Patrol agents and another 500 ICE and Customs and Border Protection officers, as well as $32 million in aerial drones–there are already seven similar unmanned surveillance aircraft at the border–and communications gear. The AP dutifully reports that Arizona Sen. John McCain criticized the money as insufficient for the enormity of the problems at the border, even though McCain irresponsibly conflates drug crime and violence in Mexico with all migration into the United States.

Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to McCain, or even the Republicans alone. Here now, a look back at some of Obama’s other short-sighted failures and empty promises on immigration in his short tenure as president. To those still holding their breath, immigration reform is already underway. And it looks like this:

March 2009: After months of silence, Obama discussed immigration at an Orange County, Calif. town hall meeting. He said he wanted comprehensive, rather than piecemeal reform.

Jan 2010: Hey, some legitimately good news. The Obama administration lifted the U.S. travel ban that barred folks with HIV/AIDS from entering the country.

March 2010: The Obama administration scraps the SBInet high-tech virtual fence program with nothing to show for the $770 million spent to develop the barrier.

March 2010: Obama addresses an assembled crowd of 500,000 on the National Mall calling for immigration reform. He promised to do "everything in [his] power" to bring about reform within the year.

March 2010: Obama deports a record 388,000 people in his first year in office, surpassing George W. Bush’s records.

April 2010: A leaked ICE memo reveals that contrary to public statements, the agency does in fact maintain deportation quotas, and is on pace to deport hundreds of thousands more people this year.

April 2010: U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner Alan Bersin testifies at a Senate hearing that Customs and Border Patrol agents constitute the largest uniformed federal law enforcement agency in the country. By the end of 2009, the U.S. employed more than 20,000 Border Patrol agents, a 100 percent increase since just 2004.

May 2010: Mexican President Felipe Calderon visits the U.S. and slams Arizona’s SB 1070. Obama does likewise, calling the anti-immigrant law "misguided."

May 2010: The next weekend, Obama announces he will send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border to aid in border enforcement and investigations.

July 2010: Obama gives immigration speech, promising nothing, laying blame for the current immigration impasse on Congress.

August 2010: The pilot Secure Communities program, which allows local law enforcement agencies to check the fingerprints of anyone booked in jail against a national immigration database, is already established in 27 states, and has deported nearly 50,000 already. The majority of deportees have no criminal record, even though the purported aim is to focus on so-called "criminal aliens."

Today: Obama approves an extra $600 million for border militarization.