By Michael Cipriano
The 2000 presidential election was a formative moment for David Inserra.
“I’ve always loved American history and from an early age, I thought that America was unique and exceptional because of our dedication to liberty and limited government,” Inserra said. “Following the 2000 election, I knew I wanted to be a part of the way policy is made in the U.S.”
Today, Inserra is a research associate at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy.
He grew up in in Bucks County, Pa. just north of Philadelphia. Inserra’s interest in politics and policy continued beyond his grade school years. He attended the College of William and Mary where he graduated with a degree in government and economics before landing a job with the right-wing think tank.
“My desire for a strong America built on the principles of freedom, opportunity, and limited government, is what keeps me passionate about U.S. policymaking today.”
Inserra’s research has driven him to be very critical of what he says is President Obama’s lack enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. With over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, Inserra says the immigration system is broken because the executive branch is effectively no longer enforcing the rules that Congress has established.
“Whether or not we are willing to deport certain people, whether or not we are willing to engage in proper amounts of border security or enforcement against businesses, these are things that ultimately fall to the executive branch, and the executive branch is not willing to do it.” Inserra said. “And that is what is breaking the system. That is what has led us to the situation where we are now.”
Inserra discussed a report he wrote last November titled “Ten-Step Checklist for Revitalizing America’s Immigration System: How the Administration Can Fulfill Its Responsibilities.” It contains what Inserra calls a concrete list of things President Obama can do to enforce the country’s immigration law and fulfill his constitutional duty.
The report was published just days after President Obama issued his executive action on immigration in November 2014, which could defer the deportation of up to 5 of the 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States.
According to the report, suggestions to fix the system include removing all forms of executive policy directives ignoring or contradicting existing laws, allowing immigration agencies to enforce and apply the law without political pressure and improving U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ ability to handle visa applications.
Inserra says the recommendations are all within the authority of the executive branch. He added that the suggestions would now allow the president to use what Inserra describes as his common excuses of, “The system is broken,” and “My hands are tied.”
“[Discretion] is supposed to be about how can we do the best job with the law we have and how can we make it most efficient while also tempering it with mercy where appropriate,” Inserra said.
“In this case [of executive action], we have thrown the effectiveness part completely away, and we are essentially saying we are not going to enforce the law.”
But the problem of executive enforcement, or lack thereof, is not just entirely of the Obama administration, Inserra says. He believes that while the Obama administration is “very bad” with immigration enforcement, it has been a problem with the executive branch since the 1970s.
Inserra pointed to the Reagan administration, which granted amnesty to 2.5 to 3 million undocumented immigrants in 1986 with the Immigration Reform and Control Act. While the law contained a series of enforcement measures the administration promised would be tools to fight against future immigration, Inserra said the measures never materialized under Reagan and subsequent administrations.
“The problem is no one has ever been willing to address the ultimate brokenness of the immigration system, how we are going to enforce our laws and ensure that people are only coming to the country legally, not illegally,” Inserra said.
Inserra said the first step to fix the system must start with the executive branch. He believes there is too much discretion being used within the executive branch, and that law enforcement officers from agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection need to be able to do their jobs, such as detaining and deporting unlawful individuals.
“The laws of our country say that if they meet certain criteria, then [undocumented immigrants] should be deported,” Inserra said. “The problem is, we are not abiding by those criteria. [Law enforcement agencies] are supposed to be enforcing the law as written, not following the preferences of the current administration.”