During his nearly eight years in the White House, President Obama has never
been able to sell Congress on his comprehensive immigration reform vision.
Obama didn’t have the sway to convince the House to take up the 2013 Senate
immigration bill for the simplest reason. Most U.S. representatives knew
that back in their home districts, voters perceived the bill as amnesty, a
turkey in their eyes.

Obama then embarked on a series of executive actions aimed to effectively
grant amnesty, the most notable of which was his 2014 attempt, thwarted by
the Supreme Court, to give deferred deportation and to issue work permits to
about five million unlawful immigrants.

But when it comes to keeping the border open, Obama is not easily
discouraged. The Obama administration’s latest amnesty version, which, like
all his others, circumvents Congress, is to work with the United Nations to
identify Central Americans that they deem refugees, screen them in their
native countries, and resettle them in the U.S.

The ill-conceived Central American Minors (CAM) program will also allow
siblings, parents, and the caregivers accompanying minors to apply for
refugee status. As the White House sees it, CAM will provide an “orderly and
safe” resettlement in the U.S., and will take pressure off the border where
since October 51,000 people traveling as families and 43,000 unaccompanied
minors have been apprehended trying to enter illegally. The pattern of
increased Central American migration is well-established: the total jumped
60 percent from 2012 to 2013, and 75 percent from 2013 to 2014.

According to congressional testimony from National Border Patrol Council
President Brandon Judd, the Obama administration exacerbated the migration
problem when he issued new advisories that revived “catch-and-release” which
orders that most apprehended aliens be freed and allowed to enter the
general population. Catch-and-release contravenes federal law. Under Title 8
US Code 1222, when an immigration officer comes into contact with an illegal
alien who has not been legally admitted to the U.S., “the alien shall be
detained for a proceeding” by the officer. In U.S. law, the word “shall”
means imperative or mandatory, something that must be done. Yet the law is
routinely ignored.

CAM is wrong in theory and in practice. Despite the administration’s claims,
Central Americans are not true refugees but rather economic migrants who
move to the U.S. to improve their standard of living. As Director-General
of the United Nations Office at Geneva Michael Møller said, the words
refugee and migrant have been “put into the same salad. To put it very
bluntly, every refugee is a migrant. Not every migrant is a refugee.”

Immigration should benefit Americans. But Census Bureau data shows that more
than half of all immigrant-led households receive at least one form of
welfare benefit; if a child lives in that home, the total increases to 76
percent. The U.S. cannot resolve every global crisis, nor can it accommodate
every asylum petitioner. Common sense dictates that refugees should resettle
in the first stable country they reach. But whether the migrants come from
as close by as Central America or as far away as Syria, the destination of
choice is always America.

To deter migration, Obama should stop sending Central Americans messages
that their unlawful entry will be rewarded. The president made a tepid
effort to do exactly that in 2014 when he warned, but didn’t follow up on
his threat, “Do not send your children to the border…they’ll get sent
back.” Instead, Obama perpetuates Central American migration with his
welcoming policies.

Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow with Californians for Population

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