Even WSJ Wants Immigration Reform, But Obama's ICE Chief Stresses Enforcement

While even such a conservative stalwart as The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page asks for comprehensive immigration reform and a stop to the Bush-era enforcement-only approach, the Obama administration’s chief of immigration enforcement has reiterated this week the government’s commitment to a hard-line approach.

At the same time, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano will host a meeting on immigration Thursday at the White House “with advocates, religious groups, businesses and law enforcers,” The Associated Press reported.

These latest developments seem to continue the Obama administration’s pattern of talking about reform while acting on enforcement.

John Morton, ICE chief - Photo: ice.gov

John Morton, ICE chief. (Photo: ice.gov)

“We will try to apply immigration laws in a tough, smart and thoughtful manner,”* said John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), during a visit to Los Angeles, according to a Spanish-language article in La Opinión by Feet in 2 Worlds contributor Pilar Marrero.

Morton signaled there will not be a stop to immigration raids.

Marrero wrote:

“If pro-immigrant activists expected that, with the arrival of a new government, raids would be suspended or deep change would be undertaken in the application of immigration law, Morton has a message for them.

“‘That’s not the point,’ Morton said.”

Morton’s statement came in a month of increasing bad news for the pro-immigration reform camp, and on the same day that ICE admitted the number of detainees who died while in custody was 10 higher than previously reported. The scandalous acknowledgment brought the total of immigrant deaths in jail to at least 104.

Morton also announced to reporters in L.A. that ICE has stopped using arrest quotas for its fugitive operations teams, a practice that had presumably led to incidents of racial profiling.

In a subsequent editorial, La Opinión called this piece of news “a tiny bit of relief in the midst of a generally worrisome landscape.”

Then, in a statement that could be applied to the administration’s overall approach to the immigration crisis, the newspaper said:

“The Obama administration is ultimately responsible for the operations of ICE and for the ways in which the federal agency and its local law enforcement partners act with impunity. Morton’s statements certainly don’t reassure us. The suspension of arrest quotas gives some hope as does the announcement of stronger federal oversight at the detention centers. However, actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to ICE.”

In preparation for Thursday’s meeting the Reform Immigration for America coalition asked people to send them questions they would like posed to White House officials. Wednesday afternoon, the leading one was: “¿Va a haber reforma migratoria?”

Is there going to be an immigration reform?

[* This post was updated to more accurately reflect Morton’s original English-language words.]

AboutDiego Graglia
Diego Graglia is a bilingual multimedia journalist who has worked at major media outlets in the U.S. and Latin America. He is currently the editor-in-chief at Expansion, Meixco’s leading business magazine.