Does Rep. Bachmann Agree With The Obama Administration On Immigration?

November 29, 2011 5:00 pm ET — Salvatore Colleluori

Yesterday on Laura Ingraham's radio show, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) sought to differentiate herself from opponent Newt Gingrich on immigration. She explained that while Gingrich wants to give amnesty to 11 million people (a claim PolitiFact deemed false), her plan is to deport all undocumented immigrants, but in steps. According to The Hill:

Asked by radio host Laura Ingraham on Monday about an earlier statement she made differentiating between immigrants who had recently entered the country illegally from those with longstanding ties to the United States, Bachmann said she was never referring to legalization.

"What I'm talking about is the order of deportation, the sequence of deportation," Bachmann replied. "It is almost impossible to move 11 million illegal immigrants overnight. You do it in steps."

Bachmann said deporting those convicted of crimes would be the first step.

Bachmann has criticized the Obama administration on immigration, but prioritizing the deportation of convicted criminals is just what the Obama administration has been attempting to do. She's right — it would be impossible to remove every single undocumented immigrant immediately, even if immigration officials were working with far more than the limited resources available to them now. Earlier this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton sent out a memo outlining the agency's new policy of prosecutorial discretion, which allows criminals and high-priority immigration cases to be dealt first while deprioritizing others, such as those who were brought to the U.S. as children and are seeking an education. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano explained why that's important at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in October:

Napolitano argued that immigration enforcement has become "smarter and more effective" with the priorities set in the Morton memo. In FY 2011, 90 percent of aliens removed fit DHS priorities, she said.

As deportation of a single individual can cost DHS alone anywhere from $23,000 to $30,000, the department cannot fund the deportation of more than 400,000 illegal aliens annually, Napolitano stated. Thus, it makes sense to focus on those illegal immigrants who pose a threat to US communities or national security.

Of course, that's probably where the similarities between Bachmann's and the administration's approaches to immigration end, since Bachmann would likely prefer to deport all undocumented immigrants without regard for age, family ties, or other extenuating circumstances. Still, it's unusual to see Bachmann approach policy from a perspective informed by any semblance of reality, so perhaps we ought to applaud her acknowledgement that dealing with convicted criminals first is a smart way to prioritize immigration enforcement resources.