OTHER VOICES

Changing deportation priorities

Posted Sept. 19, 2011, at 6:02 p.m.

Economic and political realities prompt the Obama administration’s welcome shift on deportations from going after those who pose no security or public-safety threat to focusing enforcement on those who do.

More than 800,000 people in the U.S. without permission were expelled in the past two years by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, setting a modern-day record. Considerable resources were ex-pended on that dubious achievement.

New guidelines draw appropriate distinctions among the 12 million living illegally in the U.S. Low priorities for ICE agents will include people who have lived in the U.S. for a long time, many having come here as children.

About 300,000 deportation cases currently before the immigration courts will be reviewed. Authorities will use their prosecutorial discretion to suspend deportation proceedings for some, including the elderly and the ill, longtime residents with clean police records, those who are close family of military service members, or the parents or spouses of American citizens.

Young people who graduated from high school and plan to attend college or serve in the military would have qualified for legal status under the long-stalled Dream Act. They should be among the cases suspended by ICE.

This is not amnesty. Only Congress can confer legal status. With the new changes, illegal immigrants enter a new legal limbo, albeit one with much less of a threat of deportation and with the ability to apply for work permits.

This is a temporary fix that acknowledges the failure of President Barack Obama’s immigration-overhaul agenda to gain traction in Congress. Reform is still crucial. But smarter prioritizing of deportation cases is key to using resources most effectively in the meantime.

The Seattle Times (Sept. 7)

Petraeus uniquely qualified for job

David Petraeus is a career military man who exchanged the uniform of the U.S. Army he has served long and honorably for civilian attire appropriate to the head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

He didn’t have to. No law says he can’t remain in military service while performing his new duties as CIA director.

But Petraeus said he didn’t want to give the impression that the American intelligence community is being militarized …

This is a soldier’s soldier who clearly understands, both instinctively and intellectually, the core American principle that our military answers to civilian authority, and not the other way around. And he obviously believes that if he is to lead the nation’s intelligence community, then leaders of other nations — allies and adversaries alike — need to understand it as well.

Robert Burns of The Associated Press calls Petraeus “the wartime model of a soldier-scholar-statesman,” and the description appears to fit. His skills as a military leader and tactician, combined with diplomatic talent and obvious media savvy, would seem to make him almost uniquely qualified for the post President Barack Obama has asked him to fill, that of a different kind of warrior.

If his performance at Langley comes even close to his career in uniform, he could prove to be a historically important CIA director as well.

Now, as Leon Panetta becomes defense secretary replacing Robert Gates, Petraeus will take over the CIA helm within days of the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks. The general’s parting admonition as a soldier was simple and to the point: U.S. civilian leaders must not allow the budget conflict to undermine American defense.

Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer (Sept. 7)

No more free debit cards

Consumers who enjoy the free use of debit cards from their banks may soon have to pay for that service — and they have Congress to “thank” for that.

The Dodd-Frank Act did a favor to merchants by slashing in half the amount that banks are permitted to charge merchants for electronic transactions.

That was wrong in principle because price-fixing is not an appropriate or constitutional function of the federal government.

But it was also wrong from a practical, financial point of view. Why? Because banks are having to find ways to make up the revenue that they will lose from being forced to reduce charges for electronic transactions. One way they are trying to make up the shortfall is by charging monthly fees when consumers use debit cards.

Some banks in our area are looking at fees of $3 to $6.

While merchants may benefit from having to pay lower transaction costs, consumers will suffer when the new regulation shifts costs onto them.

How many times must this sort of federal meddling create problems before Washington finally realizes that distorting the market is simply a bad idea?

Chattanooga (Tenn.) Free Press (Sept. 8)

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