WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — President Barack Obama held a Tuesday meeting at the Eisenhower Office Building with the country’s top law enforcement officials to make the case for immigration reform. Obama said the current system “makes it harder” for law enforcement to do their jobs, reiterating that most illegal immigrants “are not making trouble,” and “are not causing crimes.”
Obama’s pitch to the country’s top law enforcement officials comes in the wake of this week’s reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials released 36,007 individuals representing a total of nearly 88,000 convictions. The Center for Immigration Studies report listed individuals facing 193 homicide convictions, 426 sexual assault convictions and more than 16,000 drunk or drugged driving convictions.
The report states that a majority of the releases were discretionary, and not required by law.
However, Obama maintains that an immigration bill containing amnesty provisions would make the country safer and would allow law enforcement to join the “unexpected voices” needed for the “strong bipartisan support” already supporting the reform effort.
In the White House meeting on Tuesday, Obama told law enforcement officials that reform allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens is “the right thing to do for safety and security in communities all across America.”
“It would allow law enforcement to focus on its primary mission, which is keeping our communities safe,” Obama stated.
Obama said that “it’s estimated that over 80 percent” of illegal immigrants have been living in the U.S. undocumented for more than 10 years. The president suggested that a majority of illegal immigrants are already “woven into the fabrics of our communities.”
Obama stressed that “a pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants would allow authorities to focus on violent criminals and gangs instead of aliens forced to work in a “shadow economy,” and away from official documentation that could give law enforcement “a better idea of who’s in the country.”
“Their kids are going to school with our kids. Most of them are not making trouble; most of them are not causing crimes,” said Obama.
Obama continued: “And yet, we put them in this tenuous position and it creates a situation in which your personnel, who have got to go after gang-bangers and need to be going after violent criminals and deal with the whole range of challenges, and who have to cooperate with DHS around our counterterrorism activities — you’ve got to spend time dealing with somebody who is not causing any other trouble other than the fact that they were trying to make a living for their families.”
But Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, called this week’s data representing criminal aliens “shocking,” in a statement attached to the findings.
“This information is sure to raise concerns that, despite professions of a focus on removal of criminal aliens, Obama administration policies frequently have allowed political considerations to trump public safety factors and, as a result, aliens with serious criminal convictions have been allowed to return to the streets instead of being removed to their home countries,” Vaughan said.
— Benjamin Fearnow