La Opinion, L.A.'s Spanish-language paper (whose future is much brighter than the English-language paper, turns out!) ran a heartbreaking piece yesterday on the confusion surrounding what many immigrants are referring to as “Obama's law” or “student aid” or the “new Amnesty.”

The chaos should come as no surprise. If it wasn't clear before, we're now brutally aware that President Obama's August 18 announcement was nothing more…

… than a flashy opportunity for him to woo the fattening Latino voter base back onto his campaign train, despite an entire first term of harsh, human rights-infringing immigration policy.

It's not that nothing is changing. Surely, of the 300,000 deportations pending in immigration court, many will now be dismissed by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement based on the new priority system announced by Obama — and news reports indicate that a few already have been.

(ICE's official guidelines, after the jump.)

ICE Director John T. Morton

ICE Director John T. Morton

Bravo, we guess. Thing is — the discretion on who still deserves deporting is entirely up to the blame-shifting ICE hierarchy. There are no guarantees that ICE officials will find you to be low-priority. And even if your removal order is dismissed, there is still no system in place for you to work legally, or otherwise avoid breaking the law.

Because just by being here, no matter how long you've lived in the U.S. or your reasons for coming, you are breaking the law, every second of every day. That's the irony, and redundancy, in the government saying it will only deport criminal illegals. They're criminal by default.

Robert Perkins, an immigration lawyer based in Culver City, says he has a client who was recently dumped in the middle of the desert, with no clothes or money, 30 hours from his home in Mexico. The “crime” that led to his deportation? Using a green card, with his name on it, to work. (A false one, of course. Because, contrary to popular Fox News-inspired belief, green cards aren't so easy to come by these days.)

Another L.A. immigration attorney, David Gardner, says the problem isn't Obama's (proclaimed) good intent. Instead, it's that nobody at ground level wants “to take the responsibility for a common-sense thing” like sorting the low-risk illegals from the high-risk ones.

Some more hilarious context to Obama's big speech: ICE Director John T. Morton had already implemented the “priority” policy in its final form one month earlier, on June 17. (And it had been in the works since September 2010.) Nothing changed then — so why did the president, and the media, expect something different after he stepped to the podium in August?

Bigger question for the nation's hundreds of thousands of illegals: Who gets to stay? Here are the factors that Morton asked all his “Field Office Directors,” “Special Agents in Charge” and “Chief Counsel” to consider, when deciding whether to dismiss a deportation case:

  • The person's length of presence in the United States, with particular consideration given to presence while in lawful status.
  • The circumstances of the person's arrival in the United States and the manner of his or her entry, particularly if the alien came to the United States as a young child.
  • The person's pursuit of education in the United States, with particular consideration given to those who have graduated from a U.S. high school or have successfully pursued or are pursuing a college or advanced degrees at a legitimate institution of higher education in the United States.
  • Whether the person, or the person's immediate relative, has served in the U.S. military, reserves, or national guard, with particular consideration given to those who served in combat.
  • The person's criminal history, including arrests, prior convictions, or outstanding arrest warrants.
  • The person's immigration history, including any prior removal, outstanding order of removal, prior denial of status, or evidence of fraud.
  • Whether the person poses a national security or public safety concern.
  • The person's ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships.
  • The person's ties to the home country and condition in the country.
  • The person's age, with particular consideration given to minors and the elderly.
  • Whether the person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent.
  • Whether the person is the primary caretaker of a person with a mental or physical disability, minor, or seriously ill relative.
  • Whether the person or the person's spouse is pregnant or nursing.
  • Whether the person or the person's spouse suffers from severe mental or physical illness.
  • Whether the person's nationality renders removal unlikely.
  • Whether the person is likely to be granted temporary or permanent status or other relief from removal, including as a relative of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Whether the person is likely to be granted temporary or permanent status or other relief from removal, including as an asylum seeker, or a victim of domestic violence, human trafficking, or other crime.
  • Whether the person is currently cooperating or has cooperated with federal, state or local law enforcement authorities, such as ICE, the U.S Attorneys or Department of Justice, the Department ofLabor, or National Labor Relations Board, among others.

Sounds pretty great, right? But elsewhere in the memo lies the biggest obstacle to implementing a sane system:

“The universe of opportunities to exercise prosecutorial discretion is large. It may be exercised at any stage of the proceedings.”

Gardner says that with ICE agents in the field under pressure to do their job — which has, for as long as they've known, been to catch illegals — discretion still isn't taking place upon first contact. (Yes, even under “Obama's law.”)

For example, if an immigrant has a long-ago deportation order but has committed no crime since — a classic case of low priority — an arrest in the street will most likely lead straight to a boot over the border. The attorney says sees it every day. So does Perkins. (Yes, even under “Obama's law.”)

We'll see if ICE employees at the prosecutional level start to take things into their hands, in line with the White House's grand pledge. But so far, for the vast majority of low-priority illegals, everything's just as us versus you and frightening as it was before.

Thanks for the mindfuck, prez.


LA Weekly