Monday, April 28, 2014

Contrary to claims by Obama’s former Secretary of Homeland Security, the U.S. Border is apparently not “under effective control”!

LAREDO, Texas — The three soldiers in the Maryland National Guard helicopter crew lifted off from this sweltering border city shortly after sunset, with a federal agent on board and three "tickets" — reports of persons attempting to slip across the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States.

"I was amazed at how many people cross the border each and every night," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Scott Sauer, a Maryland Guard pilot who has served two deployments here. "And how unsecure our borders truly are."

They spent an hour sweeping the river with infrared and night vision, but saw only Border Patrol agents, in their white SUVs or on foot, along the northern bank of the shallow river that separates the two countries. The Maryland crew chief, watching a glowing computer monitor inside the UH-72a Lakota helicopter, toggled through screen after screen in search of migrants.
Finally, a hit: the ghostly images of three adults wading north across the river. Then, a group of 11 or 12 fording a different stretch of the slow-moving waterway. And three more, sitting on the American side of the river, their feet still in the water — ready, if challenged, to cross back to Mexico.
"I was amazed at how many people cross the border each and every night," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Scott Sauer, a Maryland Guard pilot who has served two deployments here. "And how unsecure our borders truly are."
That volume of traffic has brought the Marylanders to the busiest stretch of the Southwest border to bolster federal enforcement efforts.
Elsewhere on the 2,000-mile frontier, government statistics suggest a decade-long decline in attempted crossings. But in the Border Patrol sectors of Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, the number of apprehensions has exploded, from 95,000 in fiscal year 2011 to 205,000 last year.
Border Patrol agents here say increasingly aggressive criminal organizations — in many cases, the same ones that smuggle drugs — are responsible for the ever-growing number of immigrants in the country without legal documents. Last year, South Texas surpassed Arizona as the principal crossing for unauthorized entrants.
"We're getting slammed," said Agent Chris Cabrera, a leader of the Border Patrol union in the Rio Grande Valley. "We're getting overrun down here."
Maryland is one of several states that have answered a call for help. Since January, crews from the Edgewood-based 1-224th Aviation Security and Support Battalion have flown night surveillance missions to spot unauthorized crossers and to guide agents through the thorny scrub to their hiding places. It's the battalion's second deployment to the area in the last two years.
Border Patrol officials say it's making a difference. They credit Guard crews with spotting more than 6,500 people during the first three months of the year, helping to apprehend nearly 5,300 and turning another 850 back across the border.
"Now we have eyes in the sky," said Peter Ayala, a Border Patrol supervisor in Laredo. "They can run, but we still can see where they're going. So we don't have to be endangering ourselves or the public when we're out there. … You can see in a couple of years the tremendous effect that they've had."
Cabrera concurred: "Those guys are friggin' awesome."

Maj. Gen. James Adkins, the commander of the Maryland National Guard, says the state's air crews are keeping their skills sharp as they help enforce the border, protect property and save lives.

"It's kind of a natural mission for us," he said. "Whether in blizzards or in hurricanes, our focus has always been to support somebody else so they can do their job. If we can help the Border Patrol do their job, that's all good for the nation."

The effort has drawn some criticism. Gustavo Andrade, organizing director of CASA de Maryland, said he was surprised that Gov. Martin O'Malley approved Maryland's participation.

"That policy seems inconsistent with Maryland's values of upholding immigrants' rights," Andrade said.

He pointed to state legislation in recent years that has allowed immigrants without legal documentation to attend public colleges and universities in Maryland at in-state tuition rates and to get driver's licenses. He also noted O'Malley's announcement this month that the state would no longer automatically honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold arrested immigrants in the Baltimore jail beyond the point when they ordinarily would be released.

"We would hope that Maryland's mission on the border is purely humanitarian," Andrade said.

O'Malley, who as governor is commander-in-chief of the Maryland National Guard, said in a statement that Guard members may be activated to serve in a variety of missions, from responding to natural disasters at home to supporting peacekeeping efforts overseas. "Members of the Maryland National Guard who are serving on the United States-Mexico border are supporting federal missions," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, has warned of the increasing militarization of the border. With Guard helicopters, surveillance blimps and drones in the sky, ACLU of Texas director Terri Burke expressed concern about the privacy of property owners and others along the border.

"Is this the highest and best use of our military resources?" she asked.
Susan Kibbe, the director of a property owners association based in the Rio Grande Valley, says the ranchers and farmers she represents welcome stronger border enforcement.

"The landowner, for the most part, is in support of anything that maintains law and order," she said. "They appreciate the help. They've asked for it."

The South Texans' Property Rights Association comprises some 600 members, who own 5 million acres on or near the border, according to Kibbe. She says they face intimidation from smugglers and damage to their property.

"We're getting slammed," said Agent Chris Cabrera, a leader of the Border Patrol union in the Rio Grande Valley. "We're getting overrun down here."

"In some areas, it's a real feeling of lawlessness," she said.

There is no way of knowing how many people succeed in entering the country illegally. In Laredo, an individual who makes it across the river undetected may disappear into the large local Latino community. Or he or she might jump into a car waiting on U.S. 83 which runs parallel to, and in some places just a few hundred feet from, the border and head elsewhere.

Officials and analysts use the number of immigrants who are apprehended as a rough indicator of how many are attempting to enter the country. Here, South Texas leads the nation. While apprehensions elsewhere along the border declined by 10 percent during the last three years, in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley they more than doubled.

The largest group is Central Americans, for whom the southern tip of Texas is the closest point of entry into the United States. Officials, advocates and observers say the immigrants come principally for jobs and to reunite with family. The volume of traffic tends to ebb and flow with the economy in the United States and conditions in the immigrants' countries of origin.

The current boom in South Texas has come despite increased enforcement. It is expected that the immigration overhaul long sought by advocates on all sides will include a requirement that the borders be secured. But with legislation stalled in Congress, the Obama administration has moved unilaterally to deploy more personnel and technology to the border.

Edward Alden, a senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations who has studied illegal immigration, says the buildup has had an impact.

"We know that a higher percentage of people are being caught," said Alden, who co-authored the 2013 council report "Managing Illegal Immigration to the United States." "We know that the consequences for being caught are much more severe than they used to be. There is some evidence from surveys on the Mexican side of the border that the enforcement is having a deterrent effect."
The improved enforcement has had a perverse result: As it has grown more difficult to enter the country illegally, immigrants have turned increasingly to criminal organizations to take them across the border. The going rate for a crossing is in the thousands of dollars. Narcotraffickers such as the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel now dominate the business.

"The days of the mom-and-pop, 'Let me just jump the border and see what happens' — that doesn't happen anymore," said Manuel Martinez, an assistant chief of the Border Patrol Laredo Sector. "Everything is controlled on the Mexican side. They dictate who comes across."

Martinez says this leaves the immigrants vulnerable to criminals, who rarely warn their clients of the dangers of the desert, what to wear or how much water they'll need.

"A lot of these people, they're told, 'Jump in, we're going to have a little quick 20-minute walk, we'll go around and we're done,' " he said. "Next thing you know, they're on a three-day hike."

The Border Patrol counted 212 deaths last year in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley, many from exposure or dehydration. That's nearly half the 445 recorded along the length of the Southwest border.

Cabrera, the union leader, says the National Guard helicopters have been invaluable in anticipating immigrants in distress and enabling rescues.

"From that height, they can see into Mexico," he said. "When there's somebody drowning in the river, they can coordinate. People that are lost in the woods."

Lights in the night

The Maryland guard's history on the border dates to 1917, when members were deployed to Eagle Pass, Texas, as units from that state entered Mexico to hunt for revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. More recently, Marylanders went to Arizona in 2006 to man observation posts in support of the Border Patrol.
In 2012, the 1-224th Aviation Security and Support Battalion deployed to Harlingen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley for Operation River Watch II, the current mission. Flying two of their then-new Lakota helicopters, crews helped spot nearly 2,000 illegal crossings during one five-month period. They helped to apprehend nearly 1,300 suspects, turn back more than 300 and seize drugs with a street value that officials estimated at nearly $5 million.

Members of the 1-224th, which also flies missions in Maryland with the state police and the Secret Service, returned to Texas in January. They now split their time between Laredo and Harlingen.

"That's what the battalion is designed to do," said Maj. Kirk Regina, acting commander of the unit. "Support homeland defense, homeland security."

The Maryland crew gathered at an operations center at Laredo International Airport one evening this month for a preflight briefing. They included two pilots and a crew chief, with a Border Patrol agent. As a condition of flying with the crew, The Baltimore Sun agreed not to publish their names.

"There is the aspect of surveillance and counter-surveillance that takes place when we're working along the border," said Sauer, who left Texas last year. "They have guys there that pretty much watch when you take off, trying to figure out which way you're going. … Guys do get followed."

During the afternoon, the temperature rose above 100 degrees; by the time the crew lifted off, it had retreated to the 80s. From a few thousand feet up, Laredo and its Mexican neighbor, Nuevo Laredo, appear to be a single city, with a river running through the center.

Using an encrypted frequency, the Border Patrol agent received three tickets from a dispatcher on the ground. One group of nine or 10 people had been spotted crossing the river at the Dairy, a ranch in Laredo South. Two more groups were reported near Zapata, south of Laredo.

The pilots guided the helicopter south along the river. As the Border Patrol agent took directions over the radio, the crew chief used an infrared camera under the nose of the aircraft to bring up images of the ground on the computer monitor.

He spotted agents on the U.S. side, fishermen on the "Mike side" — the Mexican bank — and, finally, people crossing the river. The crew watched as men and women, apparently unaware they had been seen, clambered onto American land, entered the scrub and huddled together. The video was also relayed to the Border Patrol on the ground.

The crew chief aimed a laser at the group. The light was invisible to the naked eye, but anyone wearing night-vision goggles could see the "Finger of God": a thin green line, running straight from the helicopter to the immigrants, giving their location away. Two Border Patrol agents on the ground closed in.

Later, the agent in the helicopter would use a different kind of light — a 43 million-candlepower Nightsun spotlight — to illuminate a group of crossers and turn them back over the border.

Cabrera said the aerial surveillance gives confidence to agents on the ground.

"It's not uncommon for a group of Border Patrol agents, two or three guys, to apprehend 60, 70 people," he said. "When you have the eyes up there watching to see if there's anything coming on your back side, to be able to warn you, that helps."

Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations and his co-authors estimated that 40 percent to 55 percent of those who attempt to cross the Southwest border illegally are apprehended. Participants in the debate over immigration overhaul have spoken of achieving a 90 percent effectiveness rate. That would include both apprehensions and immigrants turned back.

"You're never going to get to zero," Alden said. "The border between East and West Germany — so, you know, barbed wire, quarter-mile-long no-man's land, floodlights, shoot-to-kill orders, et cetera, et cetera — a thousand people a year managed to get across that border."

Sauer is looking forward to returning to the Texas border later this year.

"I have a lot of compassion for the [agents] that are out there in the woods, basically out there by themselves," he said. "Having the open borders that we have ... you don't really know what's coming across, whether it be narcotics or the people.

"A lot of people think it's just solely people from Mexico. But if you talk to the agents on the ground, if you go to the holding facilities, you'll see that they have people from all over the world, whether it be China, Russia, Africa. I mean, all these people who kind of filter their way up, and you just never know who's coming across the border."

Reprinted from Maryland National Guard Helping To Patrol Mexican Border
April 26, 2014 | By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore Sun reporters Erin Cox and Justin George contributed to this article.

Ben Ferro

Saturday, April 19, 2014


What’s Next, Governor O’Malley? Sanctuary for Illegal Aliens in Government Buildings?

O'Malley Takes Aim At Deportations

Governor orders a change in policy on federal 'detainer' requests at Baltimore jail

April 19, 2014

Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Friday that the Baltimore City Detention Center will no longer automatically honor requests from the federal government to hold immigrants for deportation — making the state-run jail one of a relative handful in the country to take a more discerning approach on such requests.

The move is intended to reduce deportations of immigrants who do not have criminal records under a federal program called Secure Communities.

The program, run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is supposed to identify repeat and violent offenders for deportation. But a Baltimore Sun analysis this year found that more than 40 percent of those deported in Maryland had no prior criminal record — far higher than the national average.

Baltimore joins California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia and others in reviewing requests from ICE to hold immigrants for up to 48 hours beyond when they would ordinarily be released.

Advocates say such "detainer" requests are often filed on immigrants who have deep ties in the community and no criminal record.

Under the new policy, which begins immediately, Baltimore will honor the requests only in cases in which an immigrant has been charged with or convicted of a felony, three or more misdemeanors or a "serious" misdemeanor — roughly those that Secure Communities was originally intended to target.

Those wanted only for immigration violations are to be released from the jail once they have satisfied the requirements of their pending charge.

"We will focus our efforts on complying with ICE detainers when there is an actual threat to the public's safety," the governor said. "No family should be ripped apart because the Republican Congress can't come to the table and reach a reasonable compromise on comprehensive immigration reform."

The decision is a significant step for O'Malley, who is considering a run for president in 2016.

The Democratic governor had received praise from advocates for signing a law in 2011 to allow immigrants in this country without legal documents to attend state colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates, and for backing a measure last year to let them apply for drivers licenses.

The head of the state's largest immigrant-rights group applauded O'Malley's announcement Friday.

"Martin O'Malley exemplifies the best principles of great leaders — honoring diversity, taking leadership when others fail, and executing decisive action when needed," said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland.

Opponents said the move could allow immigrants who have criminal backgrounds to be set free rather than being turned over to ICE for further investigation. They said O'Malley's decision will make it harder for the federal government to enforce immigration laws.

Those affected, critics say, broke the law by entering the United States illegally in the first place.

"It has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with obstructing enforcement of immigration laws," said Jessica M. Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies. The Washington-based think tank supports tighter immigration controls.

"Marylanders should be outraged that Governor O'Malley has put the interests of immigration scofflaws ahead of their legitimate interest in having immigration laws enforced, which protects jobs and public safety," she said.

Under Secure Communities, immigration officials access the fingerprints of everyone who is arrested, anywhere in the country, be it for murder or driving without a license. The Department of Homeland Security checks those prints against a database of people known to be in the country illegally.

When Department of Homeland Security computers turn up a match, federal agents ask the local jail to hold the immigrant for up to 48 hours beyond the time he or she would otherwise be released so a pickup can be arranged.

Under U.S. law, immigration violations are often civil matters, not criminal offenses.

ICE officials have pointed to cases in which the Secure Communities program has identified criminals, and they have said repeatedly that the agency's priority remains repeat and violent offenders.

In response to O'Malley's announcement, the agency released a statement Friday saying it "will continue to work cooperatively with law enforcement partners throughout Maryland as the agency seeks to enforce its priorities through the identification and removal of convicted criminals and others who are public safety threats."

O'Malley's decision follows an exchange of letters with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson after The Sun published its articles.

The governor wrote Johnson in February seeking an explanation for Maryland's high numbers. In a separate letter to Johnson on Friday, the governor wrote that his "concerns about ICE's enforcement priorities are undiminished."

Most counties in Maryland honor the ICE requests.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has concluded that compliance is optional. His office wrote in October that federal rules allow "state and local jurisdictions to exercise discretion when determining how to respond to individual detainers."

The General Assembly considered legislation this year to delineate when a jurisdiction could honor the request and when it would be required to release an immigrant.The O'Malley administration did not take a position on the bill, which failed to advance. O'Malley's move is limited to the Baltimore jail, which the state manages, but the decision opens the door to county officials in Maryland.

Sirine Shebaya, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland who has followed the issue closely, said the decision could set an important precedent for the rest of the state.

"This is a huge step forward that we hope will lead other counties to follow suit as we continue to advocate for the enactment of a similar policy statewide," she said.

Officials in Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Frederick and Prince George's counties either could not be reached late Friday for comment or were not immediately prepared to respond. Unlike warrants, immigration detainers are not signed by judges and meet no standard of probable cause — and several federal courts have started to look at them critically. A federal judge in Oregon ruled last week that the detainers violate the Fourth Amendment, prompting several jurisdictions there to announce that they would no longer honor them.

O'Malley's decision comes as hope has dwindled that Congress will pass legislation this year to broadly address an immigration system that advocates and critics alike describe as "broken."

President Barack Obama has instructed Johnson to review immigration enforcement policies and suggest ways to make them "more humane."

Democrats are scrambling ahead of the midterm elections to ease concerns from some Hispanic groups that the Obama administration has not done enough to stem the deportations of immigrants who could qualify for legal residency under a bipartisan immigration overhaul approved by the Senate last year.

Ben Ferro

Thursday, April 17, 2014

OMG, What's Next!, Administrative Amnesty?

Obama Weighs Detainee Hearings

Obama administration officials are considering allowing bond hearings for immigrants in prolonged detention, officials said, a shift that could slow the pace of deportations because immigration courts fast-track cases of incarcerated immigrants.

Several thousand immigrants could be released from jails across the country if judges are allowed to hear their cases and grant bond, advocates say.

The issue is particularly acute for Maryland, where those picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are likely to spend far more time in detention centers than those apprehended in other states.

The proposal is one of several being floated as the White House scrambles to ease concerns of Hispanic groups and other traditional allies that have turned on President Obama in recent weeks.

Some called him "deporter in chief" and excoriated his administration for expelling immigrants who could qualify for legal papers under the immigration overhaul bill that passed the Senate last year but then stalled in the GOP-led House.

Obama has tried to keep attention focused on Republicans, rather than his record on deportations. He took the GOP to task Wednesday for failing to pass the immigration bill introduced a year ago by a bipartisan group of senators.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, responded with a sharp critique, saying Obama had shown "no sincere desire to work together" with Republicans.

With legislation at an apparent impasse, the White House is expected to roll out several administrative changes, such as bond hearings, to reduce deportations in coming months.

Immigrants initially taken into custody in Maryland spent an average of 80 days in detention compared to the national average of 31 days, according to researchers at the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. About 11 percent of immigrants picked up in Maryland spent more than six months detained, compared with a national average of 3 percent.

The numbers left the state ranked second-worst behind Massachusetts out of the 30 states reviewed by the 2012 study.

Those immigrants aren't necessarily held in Maryland; many are transferred to out-of-state detention centers.

Government data don't show in which state people are actually held, only where they were initially taken in. And immigrants in federal custody are frequently transferred, often to larger facilities near the U.S. border. There are several detention sites in Maryland, including the Worcester County jail, where more than 450 immigrants were detained in 2008, according to the TRAC data.

"There is a serious, serious issue of people in long-term detention," said Kim Propeack with the CASA de Maryland immigrant advocacy group. "And Maryland is in this dubious position of having some of the worst statistics in the country."

It's not clear why an immigrant initially held in Maryland would wind up spending more time in the system.

Obama has instructed Jeh Johnson, the new secretary of Homeland Security, to review immigration enforcement policies and suggest ways to make them "more humane." Since then, Johnson has met with lawmakers and community leaders, as well as front line immigration officers, but hasn't said when he will make his recommendations.

Officials are considering scrapping current instructions on who to deport and drafting memos that set new priorities.

Immigration agents now are supposed to focus first on expelling immigrants who have entered the country illegally within the last three years, for example, as well as those with criminal records, and those with repeat immigration violations.

The proposed revisions would shorten the time from three years to two weeks, and remove repeat violators from the priority list. The new directives also would instruct officers to consider whether detainees have close family ties in the United States.

Maryland also has among the worst track records of deporting non-criminals under a controversial program known as Secure Communities. The initiative was initially intended to capture for removal immigrants who committed crimes after they entered the country in illegally, but a Baltimore Sun analysis this year found that more than 40 percent of those deported since 2009 had no prior criminal record — a far greater share than the national average.

Many of those Secure Communities deportations occurred quickly — within weeks — because those immigrants had long-standing deportations orders on file. By contrast, many of the immigrants being held for an extended period of time have a compelling reason to fight their deportation, such as a case for asylum.

Joanne Lin, a legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said bond hearings would make immigration enforcement more fair.

"If your liberty is going to be taken away, separated from your family, you need to be able to have your day in court and see an immigration judge," Lin said.

Recent court decisions have required immigration agents to present to judges foreigners held in detention longer than six months in California and Massachusetts. In other states, immigration agents usually decide if someone facing deportation needs to be held in jail while the immigration court considers the case.

Some 871 of 1,262 immigration detainees, or more than two thirds, who were given bond hearings after a September 2012 federal district court ruling in California were ordered released on bond, or released with an ankle monitor, regular check-ins, or other restrictions, according to the ACLU, which has advocated for the fix.

Justice Department lawyers have spent years fighting proposals to require bond hearings, arguing that they would strain resources and that detention should be mandatory for criminal detainees. The administration has not yet decided whether to drop its objections to the federal court's decision, or appeal to the Supreme Court.

Reprint of article by Brian Bennett, John Fritze and Christi Parsons, Tribune Newspapers
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun

Ben Ferro

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

If you agree with this editorial by the Times, then you’re reading the wrong blog!

Yes He Can, on Immigration

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, April 5, 2014

If President Obama means what he says about wanting an immigration system that reflects American values, helps the economy and taps the yearnings of millions of Americans-in-waiting, he is going to have to do something about it — soon and on his own. It has been frustrating to watch his yes-we-can promises on immigration reform fade to protestations of impotence and the blaming of others. All Mr. Obama has been saying lately is: No, in fact, we can’t, because Republicans and the law won’t let me.

Mr. Obama is correct when he complains that long-term immigration repairs have been throttled in Congress. Neo-nativist Republicans fixated on mass deportation have blocked a worthy bipartisan bill. But Mr. Obama has compounded this failure by clinging to a coldblooded strategy of ramped-up enforcement on the same people he has promised to help through legislation that he has failed to achieve.

With nearly two million removals in the last five years, the Obama administration is deporting people at a faster pace than has taken place under any other president. This enormously costly effort was meant to win Republican support for broader reform. But all it has done is add to the burden of fear, family disruption and lack of opportunity faced by 11 million people who cannot get right with the law. Because of Mr. Obama’s enforcement blitz, more than 5,000 children have ended up in foster care.

Mr. Obama should know his approach is unsustainable, and immigration advocates and lawmakers have applied intense pressure on him to deport “not one more” deserving immigrant. With reform on life support, he recently told the Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, to find ways to conduct immigration enforcement more “humanely.”

That would be nice. But that is only the beginning of what Mr. Obama and Mr. Johnson should do.

Those who would qualify for legalization under a Senate bill passed last summer — people who do not pose criminal threats, who have strong ties to this country and, in many cases, have children who are American citizens — should not be in danger of deportation. The one recent bright spot in Mr. Obama’s immigration record has been his decision, made on firm legal ground, to defer for two years the deportations of young people who would have qualified for legal status under the stalled Dream Act.

These immigrants, known as Dreamers, are a sympathetic group, and Mr. Obama’s move to protect them was timely and wise. But millions of other unauthorized immigrants are just as vulnerable and no less worthy. There is no good reason not to extend similar relief to the Dreamers’ parents, or to the parents of citizen children and others who pose no threat and should likewise be allowed to live and work here while efforts to pass reform continue.

Besides deferring some deportations, the administration should adopt an array of policy changes, no matter what Congress does. Mr. Johnson needs to get Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol to make noncriminals and minor offenders the lowest deportation priorities. This has been tried before, through a series of “prosecutorial discretion” memos that have had little positive effect.

If their language needs clarifying, Mr. Johnson, once the Pentagon’s top lawyer, surely knows how to write clear rules of engagement. Some states like California do, too: They now strictly limit the kinds of people local police surrender to federal authorities for deportation.

The administration needs to find ways to turn off the deportation machinery when it gets abused. It should end programs like Secure Communities that enlist local police as immigration enforcers. When immigrants assert their civil and labor rights against abusive employers, it should protect them from deportation and retaliation.

The administration should abandon quota-based enforcement driven by the urge to fill more than 30,000 detention beds every day. And it should require bond hearings before immigration judges for people who have been held longer than six months, and end solitary confinement and other abusive conditions for detainees. Above all, it should direct the nation’s vast immigration enforcement resources more forcefully against gangs, guns, violent criminals and other genuine threats.

These and other reforms should not be confused with a comprehensive overhaul of immigration, which only Congress can achieve. But they are ways to push a failing system toward sanity and justice.

Mr. Obama may argue that he can’t be too aggressive in halting deportations because that will make the Republicans go crazy, and there’s always hope for a legislative solution. He has often seemed like a bystander to the immigration stalemate, watching the wheels spin, giving speeches and hoping for the best.

It’s hard to know when he will finally stir himself to do something big and consequential.

Please send your reactions, comments and opinions to

Ben Ferro