It was bad enough that the federal government utterly failed to enforce our interior enforcement immigration laws during the Clinton years and during the first term of George W. Bush. It was only after Michael Chertoff arrived as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and started taking a tough stance on illegal immigration that Immigration and Customs Enforcement began enforcing the laws on the books. Part of this get-tough approach included ending the self-defeating policy called “catch and release” where illegal immigrants were caught, but then released with a notice telling them to appear at a courthouse at a date months down the road. Not surprisingly, upon being released, they hightailed it to another city or state and never stepped foot near the courthouse. “Catch and release” was a toothless policy that needed to end.

Secretary Chertoff, thankfully, ended it and instituted a new policy called “detention and removal” (D&R). Under D&R, illegal immigrants where detained when caught and could either agree to expedited removal from the U.S. or be sent to a detention center to await their deportation hearing. As part of the broader effort to enforce existing laws on the books, D&R contributed to the 1 million decrease in illegal immigrants in the United States over the last two years. Specifically, deportations of illegal immigrants caught during employer raids jumped from 485 in 2002 to 5,184 in 2008.

Now, we get news that Secretary Janet Napolitano has changed policy again. It is worse than “catch and release.” The new policy goes one step beyond “catch and release” — or takes two steps back from where we are — by giving illegal immigrants Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) (i.e, work permits) to stay and work. These permits are substantively no different than the permits given to law abiding people who follow the rules and wait their turn to obtain a green card or citizenship.

The policy came to light following an employer raid in Bellingham, Washington that caught 28 illegal immigrants. DHS gave these illegal immigrations the EADs in “exchange for cooperating with an ongoing investigation of their employer” and the EADs expire once the case against the employer is over. Does anyone really believe that these 28 illegal immigrants won’t do exactly what illegal immigrants did during the “catch and release” era and simply move to another city or state? To call DHS naive would be a gross understatement. This new policy will undermine all of the hard work and effort spent over the last four years to put teeth in our immigration policy. Shame on DHS and Napolitano for this “manmade” disaster.

And two more things, the unemployment rate in Whatcome County, Washington where DHS just let 28 illegal immigrants legally back into the workplace is 8.1% and over 150 Americans had applied for the jobs that became available after the employer raid. Oh well, maybe those Americans can get stimulus money to pay their bills…