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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Anti-Immigration Activist Criticizes Obama Deportation Changes

Dan Stein is the longtime president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). (steinreport.com)

Dan Stein is the longtime president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). (steinreport.com)

“A backdoor amnesty” is what Dan Stein calls the Obama administration’s plan to not deport immigrants who’ve lived in the U.S. for years who also haven’t committed crimes.

Stein shares his perspective on deportations and immigration reform with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson, following our interview Tuesday with Enrique Acevedo of Univision, who supports the deportation policy changes.

Since 1988, Stein has been president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which opposes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Interview Highlights: Dan Stein

On “minimizing” the felony status of illegal immigration

“The polar extremes of anyone who’s in the country illegally should be excluded, and anybody who comes in illegally should be allowed to stay, leaves no nuance in the center. The point is, there’s an effort going on right now to minimize the idea that illegal immigration a crime. Jeb Bush, by saying it’s an act of love, is trying to minimize the fact that it’s a felony under federal law. And there’s a further effort to try to minimize the moral consequences of people who jump the line in front of millions of people who jump the line in front of millions of people to try to grab a shot at residency in the U.S. Ultimately, though, many of the people advocating on behalf of the illegal immigrants are saying the don’t really care whether they become citizens, they just want to be able to work here and send money back home. That’s not the traditional model for what immigration’s all about in this country. Assimilation is a part of the naturalization process, and we should expect people who come to aspire to become citizens, and respect for law is the cornerstone of what makes a new citizen a good citizen. And if people have shown a routine willingness to break the law, then that’s not a good sign.”

On how he believes illegal immigration should be dealt with

“People who are here illegally find ways to adjust status — through marriage to a U.S. citizen or some other vehicle. There are people who simply don’t have the means of doing it who can leave the way they came back in. If the argument is that Obama is the deporter in chief and he’s deporting a million-plus illegal immigrants every year, then it’s not a big deal to ramp up enforcement and discourage most people here either illegally to go back home, or for people who have strong equities, and who have been here for a very long period of time, under extraordinary circumstances, you would maybe consider a case-by-case adjustment, or a statute of limitations similar to what’s already in the immigration law.”

On Latino sentiment about immigration reform

“FAIR doesn’t agree with the idea that Latinos all support high levels of mass and illegal immigration across our border, or that it should be rewarded with an amnesty. And there’s nothing about the polling data that suggests that Latinos vote immigration as their number-one issue. In the 2010 election, it was clear: Americans voted for strong, state and local cooperation with effective federal immigration law enforcement. In 2012, the argument was made — speciously, we believe — that somehow, because there was a heavy skew toward Obama among the Latino vote, that somehow, the Republicans had been punished for that. We don’t see the empirical evidence to back that up. What we do see is that there is a strong, partisan interest among the Democrats in trying to galvanize Latinos around the idea that anybody who supports strong border and immigration controls is somehow anti-Latino. The idea that there’s one class of people who can jump in front of 30 to 40 million people around the world, who have waited in line and patiently respected our system and our borders — that’s just not the American way.”

Guest

  • Daniel Stein, president of Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

This is HERE AND NOW. And it doesn't look likely that comprehensive immigration reform will pass through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives this year, but that doesn't mean the debate over immigration reform is going anywhere. Earlier this month, former Florida governor and potential 2016 candidate Jeb Bush broke with many in his party when he said this at a Fox news event.

JEB BUSH: Someone who comes to our country because they couldn't come legally, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work, to be able to provide for their family, yes they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's kind of a - it's an act of love.

HOBSON: That view is at odds with many Republicans who continue to block a Senate bill in the House, a bill that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, as well as increased border security. Democrat Chuck Schumer recently told MSNBC he thinks opposition to comprehensive immigration reform will cost Republicans at the polls in November.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Leaders like Boehner and like Ryan still want to try to figure out a way to do it. If you wait until June or July when most of the Tea Party primaries are over, we still have a shot. If not, they're going to have big trouble, and Jeb Bush knows that. Jeb Bush represents the most positive wing of the Republican Party on this, and that's why he said what he did.

HOBSON: On Tuesday we spoke with Enrique Acevedo from Univision about an Obama administration plan to stop deporting undocumented immigrants who have been here for years but haven't committed crimes.

ENRIQUE ACEVEDO: We have to understand where these people come from. We have to understand in some cases they've been here for decades. They have children and grandchildren who were born in the U.S., they've never committed a crime, they're just model citizens, you know, in every way you would want to look at it.

HOBSON: But many Americans have a different view, and we want to hear that perspective now. Dan Stein is president of the group Federation for American Immigration Reform, and he's with us from Washington. Dan, welcome.

DANIEL STEIN: Glad to be here.

HOBSON: After we spoke with Enrique Acevedo from Univision, we got letters from a number of our listeners who had some version of this to say, basically anyone who is in the country illegally has broken the law, and therefore they should all be deported. Is that your sense?

STEIN: Well look, there's tremendous frustration building all across the country. I don't think it's getting the kind of coverage from the national media that it ought to be because the general public's view on the whole issue is being completely excluded, and we're not hearing it expressed on television shows, cable news or what have you.

HOBSON: But do you agree with that idea, that anyone who is in the country illegally should be deported because they've committed a crime?

STEIN: Well, look, the polar extremes of anyone who's committed - who's in the country illegally should be excluded, and anybody who comes in illegally should be allowed to stay, it leaves no nuance in the center. The point is there's an effort going on right now to minimize the idea that illegal immigration a crime. Jeb Bush, by saying it's an act of love, is trying to minimize the fact that it's a felony under federal law.

And there's a further effort to try to minimize the moral consequences of people who jump the line in front of millions of people to try to grab a shot at residency in the U.S. Ultimately, though, many of the people advocating on behalf of the illegal immigrants are saying they don't really care whether they become citizens, they just want to be able to work here and send money back home.

That's not the traditional model for what immigration's all about in this country. Assimilation is a part of the naturalization process, and we should expect people who come to aspire to become citizens, and respect for law is the cornerstone of what makes a new citizen a good citizen. And if people have shown a routine willingness to break the law, then that's not a good sign.

And one more thing to keep in mind: People who come illegally don't just break our immigration laws. In order to be here for any length of time, they have to have committed a variety of other felonies, generally associated with fraudulent ID use, identity theft, failure to file taxes, a whole range of other things that we would call crimes of moral turpitude in the old days, and it's really not fair to say, well the only thing people did was break our immigration laws.

If they entered through fraud, then you can be sure that there's a variety of other felonies that have been committed in the course of being here illegally. it's just not fair.

HOBSON: But there is a big difference between murder or theft or something like that and using false documents to get a job somewhere so you can send money back home to your family, isn't there?

STEIN: Well, look, we have to clear away the smokescreen here. This is not about reforming immigration law because reforming immigration law would mean trying to fix the system so we don't see a recurrence of the same situation in the future. In 1986, there was at least a pretense of an effort to bring that about. If you take a look at what Chuck Schumer drafted with the Gang of Eight in the Senate, there's not even a pretense of trying to fix these problems in the future.

Instead it's ally ally in free thing that says if you broke the immigration law, you get to stay, and by abandoning state and local cooperation with the executive branch, secure ID and effective interior control operations with an efficient detention deportation proceeding, we're going to just be right back in the same mess along with skyrocketing massive future overall immigration rates at a time when our economy's not producing jobs for the Americans here today.

HOBSON: Well, so give me a yes or no on this. Would you have all of the 11 million undocumented people in this country be deported?

STEIN: I'm not going to give you a yes or a no to a hypothetical that doesn't exist in the real world. People who are here illegally find ways to adjust status, through marriage to a U.S. citizen or some other vehicle. There are people who simply don't have the means of doing it who can leave the way they came back in.

If the argument is that Obama is the deporter in chief and he's deporting a million-plus illegal immigrants every year, then it's not a big deal to ramp up enforcement and discourage most people here either illegally to go back home, or for people who have strong equities, and who have been here for a very long period of time, under extraordinary circumstances, you would maybe consider a case-by-case adjustment, or a statute of limitations similar to what's already in the immigration law.

HOBSON: But isn't that what the Obama administration is trying to do?

Well, take a look at the DACA deferred-action program they've been running for the people brought here when they were younger. The approval rates are running over 99 percent. There's obviously no rigorous background checks or identity verification being done. The administration, by virtue of the way it's administering the program, is undermining both the credibility of its future commitments to enforce the law and the assurance that it would actually administer these programs consistent with our national security.

Let's take a step back. I want to ask about this issue in general because after the 2012 election, it was conventional wisdom on both the Republican and Democratic side of the political spectrum that there needed to be immigration reform, that Latinos were moving more and more to the Democratic side and that Republicans needed to change their tune on immigration in this country. Do you agree with that, or what are your thoughts on that?

STEIN: FAIR doesn't agree with the idea that Latinos all support high levels of mass and illegal immigration across our border or that it should be rewarded with an amnesty. And there's nothing about the polling data that suggests that Latinos vote immigration as their number-one issue.

In the 2010 election, it was clear: Americans voted for strong, state and local cooperation with effective federal immigration law enforcement. In 2012, the argument was made, speciously we believe, that somehow because there was a heavy skew toward Obama among the Latino vote that somehow the Republicans had been punished for that. We don't see the empirical evidence to back that up.

What we do see is that there is a strong, partisan interest among the Democrats in trying to galvanize Latinos around the idea that anybody who supports strong border and immigration controls is somehow anti-Latino. The idea that there's one class of people who can jump in front of 30, 40 million people around the world, who have waited in line and patiently respected our system and our borders, that's just not the American way.

HOBSON: Dan Stein is president of Federation for American Immigration Reform. Dan, thanks so much for sharing your views.

STEIN: Thank you very much.

HOBSON: And you can share your views with us at hereandnow.org. You can send us a tweet @hereandnow, @hereandnowrobin, @jeremyhobson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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