Friday, August 19, 2011

Editor's Corner: Think Like A Bureaucrat

Aug. 19:  The White House and DHS made a big splash on August 18, 2011 by announcing a new deportation policy.  Under the initiative, some 300K immigration court cases will be reviewed.  Low-priority cases (students, dishwashers, nannies, dry-wallers) may get dumped or shelved, enabling the courts to focus on deporting the real bad guys - "criminal aliens."  And all new incoming cases will be reviewed as well, with the possibility of low-profile cases not being filed with the immigration court in the first place.  Under this initiative, some immigrants may be eligible for work permits until the dust settles.

But how will this play out in the trenches?  To answer that question, think like a bureaucrat.

Those in charge of implementing this new initiative at the ground level are ICE career prosecutors, deportation officers and administrators.  Until now they have made their bones and have been promoted on the strength of how many folks they arrested, detained and deported, and how fast.  Being "bad guys" has been good for their careers.

Now, suddenly, they are being told to be "good guys."  Huh?  If I am an ICE bureaucrat, my first question will be, "How will I (or will I) be rewarded for moving a case from the 'deport' pile over to the 'back burner' pile?"  Until that question is answered very clearly, little or nothing will change, and the policy will be seen as nothing more than a blatant election-cycle play for the Latino vote.  For this to work, ICE bureaucrats will need to know they will be rewarded and protected if they take a DREAM Act-eligible student out of the deport queue.

It's one thing to make a big play for the media at the White House and DHS Secretary level.  Will they follow up with clear instructions to the field - and a reward system - that will stick?

- Daniel M. Kowalski, Editor-in-Chief, Bender's Immigration Bulletin and Bender's Immigration Bulletin - Daily Edition.