Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> Homeland Security -> Immigration


ItemHomeland Security
ImmigrationGrade
HS-30
The Promise: "...we'll crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants..."
When/Where: Obama Campaign Speech at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala, Washington, D.C., dated 09/10/08.
Source: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=78613
Status:As of 07/09/09, as reported in the Washington Post, President Obama appeared to be abandoning a campaign promise to "crack down" on employers who hire illegal (undocumented) immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), instead, would focus on federal contract employers who hired approximately 4M illegal immigrants, while the majority of such people (another 7-8M) did not work under federal contracts. Illegals working as household help, in the nation's "strawberry patches", etc. would be given a pass.

On 08/18/11, DHS Secretary Napolitano voiced support for the institution of what appeared to be, in the words of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a "backdoor amnesty" whereby the cases of approximately 300K illegal immigrants (except the most hardened criminals or those who posed a security risk) would be reviewed and reprieves from deportation granted for those who arrived in the USA as children, or who served in the U.S. military.

On 08/31/11, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced that illegal immigrants, once in the USA, have all the workplace rights enjoyed by U.S. citizens and legal immigrants -- notably the right to lodge complaints without fear of being fired or deported. This appeared to be in contravention of Department of Labor (DOL) policies that direct U.S. employers to first seek the certification of foreign nationals through the DOL. The employer then had to petition the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services for work visas for those non-U.S. workers. Applicants had to establish that they were admissible to the U.S. under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). What Secretary Solis advocated, based on agreements reached with countries such as Mexico, is that it was OK for illegal immigrants to work in the USA. If they filed grievances against their employers with the DOL, they would receive full protections equal to those afforded to U.S. citizens.

On 06/15/12, Secretary Napolitano announced that as many as 800K illegal immigrants who were brought to the USA as children and who had never committed a crime would be issued work permits. By implementing these actions at the executive and not the legislative level, according to some members of Congress, the Obama Administration usurped Congress' authority by implementing its own amnesty program.

By implementing the above tactic effective 08/15/12, the Obama Administration created a significant incentive for foreigners to enter the USA illegally. In the longer term, their offspring would be granted an amnesty if they were brought to the USA before their 16th birthday, were younger than 31 years old on 06/15/12, had not been charged with any crimes, had graduated from a U.S. high school or equivalent, or had served in the U.S. armed forces. Upon payment of a $465 application fee, these offsprings of illegal immigrants would receive a two-year deferment from deportation proceedings. During that timeframe, eligible offspring could apply for work permits. Their parents, however, were permitted to continue working in the USA illegally as undocumented immigrants.

In CY2014, out of 554K employers participating in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) E-Verify system to electronically verify the employment
eligibility of newly hired employees, only 2,022 audits were initiated and only 172 employers were arrested by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency for criminal violations related to the knowing employment of aliens not authorized to work in the USA. This is reflective of 'business as usual' rather than a 'crack down'.

The official numerical pattern of illegal immigrants in the USA during President Obama's presidency, through CY2014 (the limit of reliable estimates) was as follows: CY2009 - 10.8M; CY2010 - 11.6M; CY2011 - 11.5M; CY2012 - 11.4M; CY2013 - 11.3M; CY2014 - 11.3M. At best, these numbers are "guesstimates," given that illegal aliens tend to hide or to deny their real status to government officials (i.e. USCIS, DHS, Census Bureau) or to the respected Pew Research Center. The actual number, according to some sources, is between 15M and 20M.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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HS-31
The Promise: "...Support a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan on Immigration, dated 09/06/08.
Source: http://change.gov/agenda/immigration_agenda/
Status:President Obama did not address immigration reform in CY2009, preferring to focus on health care reform, financial regulations reform, cap-and-trade, and other priorities.

On 03/18/10, Senators Schumer (D-NY) and Graham (R-SC) released an outline of a bill that encouraged President Obama to proclaim that he would "do everything in my power" to get immigration reform legislation moving in Congress during 2010.

On 12/18/10, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (S.3992) was killed from further consideration by the 111th Congress when the Senate failed to attain the 60-vote majority needed for further advancement of the bill. This proposed act would have granted legal status to young people who entered the USA illegally as children and who agreed to either go to college or join the military -- if they do not have a criminal record and meet other eligibility critera.

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the DREAM Act (S. 952) on 05/11/11. On the House side, Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) also reintroduced the DREAM Act (H.R. 1842) on the same date. Neither bill progressed beyond the initial committee phase as of end-CY2012 and prospects for any version of the DREAM Act becoming law during President Obama's terms in office died with the 112th Congress at the end of CY2012.

Undeterred, the Obama Administration issued a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy memorandum, announced to the public by President Obama on 06/15/12. DACA grants deferred deportation to people under age 31 who came to the USA under age 16 before CY2007 and met other criteria. Upon paying a $465 application fee and producing supporting documents, qualified applicants were allowed to be in the USA legally for a period of two years, after which the DACA protection could be renewed for another $465. Some Republican lawmakers denounced DACA as an abuse of executive power.

On 11/20/14, the White House announced a new executive action expanding DACA to include undocumented immigrants who entered the country before CY2010 (vice CY2007), eliminate the requirement that applicants be younger than 31 years old, and lengthen the renewable deferral period to two years. That executive action also created a Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program to provide qualified individuals the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and obtain a work authorization for three years at a time. DAPA required individuals to register, submit biometric data, pass background checks, pay fees, and show that their child was born prior to 11/14.

An injunction against DACA and DAPA was issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on 02/16/16. By a 4-4 split decision on 06/23/16, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively upheld the Texas court's decision and blocked President Obama's executive actions on DACA and DAPA. These legal decisions did not affect the original DACA of 06/12.

As of end-CY2016, more than 787K undocumented immigrants have benefited from DACA protection. Qualified illegals continue to request an initial grant of DACA or renew their quasi-legal status. They are not considered "citizens," nor has a clear path to citizenship been established for, by some accounts, over 11M illegal immigrants.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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HS-32
The Promise: "...will do more to promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:Unemployment in Mexico reached a high of 5.93% in 05/09, and decreased to 4.1% by 09/16. Unemployment is not considered to be a principal factor driving illegal immigration. Rather, the average income for Mexicans in CY2015 was about $14,800 compared with an average income of $58,700 in the USA during the same year.

The Obama Administration sought only $3M for the State Department's Economic Support Fund (ESF) for Mexico in FY2010. Wiser heads in Congress prevailed and the authorized amount for FY2010 was boosted to $15M for grant economic and social aid. For subsequent years, the ESF for Mexico was appropriated as follows:

FY2011 - $18.0M
FY2012 - $33.3M
FY2013 - $32.1M
FY2014 - $35.0M ($11.8M was designated for Global Climate Change (GCC) programs)
FY2015 - $33.6M ($12.5 million was designated for GCC programs)
FY2016 - $39.0M
FY2017 - $49.0M (Requested)

Of course, the ESF is not the only source of assistance to Mexico. The above was recorded solely to illustrate that the amount of ESF accorded to Mexico on an annual basis is negligible. When viewed in the context of Mexico's high drug-trafficking crime rate, its poor human rights adherence record, its paltry wage structure and other national issues, it's no surprise that the "grass looks greener" across Mexico's northern border.

Sweetening the illegal immigration pot, Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced on 08/31/11 that illegal immigrants from countries like Mexico, once in the USA, have all the workplace rights enjoyed by U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. Consequently, Mexicans managing to sneak into the USA and find a job enjoy all the workplace rights afforded to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants under prevailing laws.

Further, DHS Secretary Napolitano announced on 06/15/12 that as many as 800K illegal immigrants who were brought to the USA as children and have never committed a crime would be issued work permits.

The foregoing decisions are interpreted by Mexicans and others transiting Mexico as incentives for entry by any means, legal or otherwise, into the USA.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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HS-33
The Promise: "What I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year, an immigration bill that I strongly support."
When/Where: Candidate Obama interview with Jorge Ramos, dated 05/28/08,
Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/06/28/univisions-jorge-ramos-obamas-immigration-promise.html
Status:Despite lots of pressure from southern border states, President Obama was ineffective in pushing for an immigration reform bill during his two terms in office.

Out of frustration, on 04/23/10, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a state law banning illegal immigration to protect Arizona's citizens against trans-border drug related violence. Careful scrutiny of this law revealed that it mirrored federal immigration laws and, specifically, prohibited any form of racial profiling.

The legality of the Arizona bill was challenged by the Obama Administration. Its position was that immigration reform must be accomplished at the federal level. To that end, on 07/28/10 Judge Susan Bolton (a federal judge for the U.S. District Court of Arizona appointed in CY2000 by President Bill Clinton) blocked the most controversial sections of Arizona's immigration law from taking effect. On 04/11/11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that Judge Bolton acted lawfully when she blocked provisions of the Arizona law that would, among other things, have required police to check immigration status if they stopped someone while enforcing other laws. On 06/25/12, the Supreme Court ruled that this provision of the Arizona law was permissible under the Constitution but struck down three other provisions. Those provisions had made it a crime for immigrants to seek employment without work permits, made the non-carrying of immigration papers a crime by those who actually possess such documentation, and allowed law enforcement personnel to arrest anyone suspected of having committed a deportable offense.

Other states such as Utah, Georgia and Alabama introduced their own versions of laws designed to crack down on illegal immigration. These too were challenged by advocacy groups because they were considered unconstitutional and, in the case of Alabama, racist. Federal Judge Sharon Blackburn temporarily blocked enforcement of Alabama's immigration law (Act 2011-535) on 08/29/11 but on 09/28/11 ruled that key provisions of the law such as permitting the verification of student immigrant status would be upheld.

On 12/18/10, the Senate killed the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (S.3992/H.R. 1751) which would have been a critical first step toward immigration reform. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the DREAM Act (S. 952) on 05/11/11. Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) also reintroduced a House version of the DREAM Act (H.R. 1842) on the same date. Neither bill progressed beyond the initial committee review phase and expired with the 112th Congress at the end of CY2012.

On 08/18/11, DHS Secretary Napolitano voiced support for the institution of what appeared to be, in the words of Governor Jan Brewer, a "backdoor amnesty" whereby the cases of approximately 300K illegal immigrants would be reviewed and reprieves from deportation granted for those who arrived in the USA as children or served in the U.S. military. The guidelines to be followed consisted of 19 factors, some of which were identical to the provisions of the defeated DREAM Act. By launching this initiative, the Obama Administration essentially usurped Congress' authority by implementing its own amnesty program without benefit of the promised immigration reform bill.

Two viable immigration reform bills were in play in the 112th Congress. Congressman Kenny Marchant (R-TX) introduced H.R. 2064 on 05/31/11 to amend the "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996" while Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011" (S. 1258). Both bills did not progress beyond initial committee reviews as of end-CY2012 and expired with the 112th Congress. Because the Administration decided to circumvent Congress by initiating what looks like an amnesty program for just about any illegal immigrant (except for convicted felons) without a supporting law in 08/11, Republicans in Congress denied consideration of any further immigration reform legislation during President Obama's two terms in office.

On 06/15/12, Secretary Napolitano announced that as many as 800K illegal immigrants who were brought to the USA as children and have never committed a crime would be will granted a two-year deportation deferral if they applied (at a cost of $465) for such reprieves under the Obama Administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. See Promise HS-31 for details on DACA.

As of end-CY2016, the nation still awaited the promised immigration bill.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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