The case for comprehensive immigration reform remains strong. Unfortunately, though, the case for doubting President Barack Obama's commitment for enforcing immigration laws is still strong, too.
The latest blow to that crucial credibility: Last week's news that last year the Obama administration released 36,007 illegal immigrants convicted of other crimes. That has predictably strengthened the resolve of Americans who oppose the long-overdue immigration overhaul now being considered by the U.S. House.
The Center for Immigration Studies, which wants to limit immigration, released that and other alarming numbers last week. From USA Today: "In 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials freed 193 people who had been convicted of homicide, 426 of sexual assault, 303 of kidnapping and more than 16,000 with drunken-driving records."
ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez pointed out that many of those releases were ordered by U.S. courts. She added that even after being released, many of the undocumented immigrants were put under such restrictions as GPS and telephone monitoring.
And as Ben Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council, told USA Today: "Immigrants are demonized as dangerous criminals, despite the fact that they are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born. Individual cases of serious crimes committed by immigrants are held up as proof that all of 'them' are a threat to 'us.' "
Mr. Johnson is right about illegal immigrants' relatively low crime rate - beyond, of course, their violation of law by being in this country.
Yet that's of no consolation to the victims of those who do commit crimes. And the administration's spotty record on immigration-law enforcement gives no help to pro-reform Republicans trying to win over anti-reform conservatives - in and out of the halls of power.
That includes pro-reform House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has said many of his fellow Republicans simply don't trust the president on this issue.
That obstacle to compromise, however, doesn't change the pressing need to fix our broken immigration system.
And yes, that reform bill must include a pathway to legal status, and for some, even citizenship. There is no other practical solution to the problem of having an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already living - and many of them productively working - in the United States.
But any passable immigration reform legislation also must include solid assurances of effective enforcement of our national borders - and safeguards against the reckless release of illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes.
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