The Obama Administration appears close to doing what many thought was unthinkable from a political standpoint: opposing the enforcement of federal law for any illegal immigrants caught in Arizona. That appears to be the suggestion of John Morton, assistant secretary of homeland security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an interview this week.
If true, the Democrats may be also setting themselves up for a severe backlash. Polls shows heavy support for the Arizona law as well as increased enforcement of federal laws. Morton told the Tribune that “I don’t think the Arizona law, or laws like it, are the solution” and suggested that the government may simply refuse to process illegal immigrants seized under the Arizona law.
Previously, I noted that the Administration was unlikely to argue a conflict in federal policy on immigration to support preemption claims (as opposed to field preemption) since it would be essentially arguing that federal policy is non-enforcement or less enforcement. Morton would seem to suggest just such a policy — at least as it applies to deportation.
His comments appear to mirror those of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano who stressed “ICE has the legal discretion to accept or not to accept persons delivered to it by non-federal personnel. It also has the discretion to deport or not to deport persons delivered to it by any government agents, even its own.”
That would seem a disastrous political move. It would also contradict past statements of officials who always denied that they were holding back on deportations or arrests.
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