A slice off a big issue, and the right thing to do

The president’s decision not to deport young immigrants who are in this country illegally makes good sense on several levels, including one that his critics ought to at least grudgingly support.

If last week’s announced change in a small slice of multiple immigration issues is surprising, expect to see more of the same. As long as Congress and the president (this president and future presidents) are unable to agree to address the immigration issue in its entirety, changes will be made in slices and at the edges. And, while those changes may be defensible for legitimate reasons, they may also be driven by politics.

First, for the president’s critics, not deporting the children of illegal immigrants frees up law-enforcement resources to seek out and prosecute the illegal immigrants who have the worst records of multiple deportations or of having committed minor crimes. That shifts resources from the least threatening to those more threatening.

The president has shown that he believes in deportation in those serious cases: Deportation numbers are at a record level. So, too, has the president shown that he believes in tighter border controls. Border patrol staffing has been increased significantly.

With last week’s announcement, an estimated 800,000 children will be able to move about without the fear of being held and deported by immigration officials. That should help give them the foundation to become more contributing and productive community members. And while older children will be able to receive a work permit, no one will be able to step onto the path to citizenship; that is not included.

Will all children choose to remain in the United States with other relatives if their parents are faced with deportation? No. This policy change is less than perfect and an example of the partial relaxation of immigration laws that is certain to happen again.

(Republican and presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich talked sympathetically of immigrants who through 25 years of work and church had become a part of their U.S. communities. Will immigrant families who meet that criteria be the next group to receive favorable consideration of some sort?) Without much being said, we think the immigration debate has moved beyond demanding only an impenetrable wall and returning all 12 million illegal immigrants to their home country in order to begin a legal application process.

At the same time, continue to expect the pressure on employers to avoid hiring illegal immigrants to be minimal and random. Both political parties and the president know the importance to small business and to the economy of filling all available job positions.

Thanks to Barack Obama for sparing youthful illegal immigrants from deportation.

We look forward, after the November elections, to Washington fully addressing all the other ingredients of immigration.