President Barack Obama’s administration is quietly offering a quasi-amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants aiming to win reelection by mobilizing a wave of new Hispanic voters without alienating the populous at large, say supporters of stronger immigration law enforcement.
The new rules were quietly announced Friday with a new memo from top officials at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The “prosecutorial discretion” memo says officials need not enforce immigration laws if illegal immigrants are enrolled in an education center or if their relatives have volunteered for the US military.
“They’re pushing the [immigration] agents to be even more lax, to go further in not enforcing the law,” said Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state. “At a time when millions of Americans are unemployed and looking for work, this is more bad news coming from the Obama administration… [if the administration] really cared about putting Americans back to work, it would be vigorously enforcing the law,” he said.
“We think it is an excellent step,” said Laura Vasquez, at the Hispanic-advocacy group, La Raza, which pushed for the policies, and which is working with other groups to register Hispanics to vote in 2012. “What’s very important is how the prosecutorial discretion memo is implemented” on the streets, she said.
The Hispanic vote could be crucial in the 2012 election, because the Obama campaign hopes to offset its declining poll ratings by registering new Hispanic voters in crucial swing states, such as Virginia and North Carolina.