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Outside View: Bureaucracy underscores immigration reform need

This commentary from the Dallas Morning News does not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board.

When public policy is inherently flawed, when the laws that govern it are mutable and at times unenforceable, the only apparent salvation is … the interagency working group! The sole function of this Washington creation is to render aid to federal bureaucrats who have to make sense of the senseless.

It is no shock that the two agencies charged with enforcing immigration laws, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice, recently had to resort to an interagency working group. The Obama administration, in its zeal to demonstrate how tough it can be on illegal immigration, cast a wide net. It has now predictably panicked over what to do with a significant portion of the catch.

The program, known as Secure Communities, was aimed at illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes — “the worst of the worst,” as President Barack Obama famously called them. But the net also caught immigration violators and, more vaguely, others “prioritized for removal.”

Inevitably, immigration advocates discovered cases that fell far short of the menacing profile set by the president. When the holes in your net are small by design, you don’t have to be a fisherman to predict what you will end up with.

Regardless of your opinion on illegal immigrants, the fact is that very, very few of them are murderers, rapists and gang members. All of them, however, are here illegally. And that’s the catch.

Once identified, what do you with them? The law is clear. The government is empowered to deport. By one estimate, some 300,000 fall into this category, all caught in a net that now covers about half of all communities nationwide. But now we learn that the application of the law in these cases will be screened. In practice, this means that something other than deportation awaits these people.

And what is that, exactly? Well, it’s hard to say. In the absence of immigration reform (yes, that is where we were heading all along), these people will be thrown into limbo, branded illegal and yet untouchable unless they commit a serious transgression. The interagency working group will decide their fate, case by case.

This is the exact opposite of comprehensive immigration reform. The government has now codified a system that is open to exceptions, influenced by politics, decided case by case, logical only in a Lewis Carroll way. The patchwork policy has two kinds of enforcement: Throw them in jail and deport or wink-wink go on your way.

You almost feel sorry for John Morton, the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He has written two memos this year to his troops, trying to adjust to the shifting winds. On Page 6 of his last one, in June, he warns that everything he outlined “may be modified, superseded, or rescinded at any time without notice.”



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Editorial: Washington state lawmakers scramble to keep public in the dark

State lawmakers want to create a legislative loophole in Washington’s Public Records Act. While it’s nice to see Democrats and Republicans working together for once, it’s just too bad that their agreement is that the public is the enemy. As The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia reporter Jim Camden explained Feb. 22, lawmakers could vote on a bill today responding to a court order that the people of Washington are entitled to review legislative records.