It is a shame that Congress should have to enact new laws to try to get the Obama administration to enforce laws that are already on the books. That unfortunate necessity is a painful symbol of the administration's willingness to go its own way no matter what the law might say.
The United States has laws against coming to this country without permission. And so when illegal aliens are arrested, they should be processed promptly and sent back to their native countries.
But President Barack Obama has made it clear that he favors giving amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, and since Congress has refused to enact amnesty legislation, he keeps issuing orders that, in effect, create a back-door amnesty.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement director said "discretion" should be exercised by immigration officials before an illegal alien who has been detained is ordered deported.
Barring a "serious criminal history ... favorable discretion, such as release from detention and deferral or a stay of removal generally will be appropriate," said a memo from ICE Director John Morton.
But how is that "appropriate"? Obviously many illegal aliens avoid detection by law enforcement, but those who are arrested should be deported.
That commonsense principle -- and respect for the rule of law -- is what some members of the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to uphold with legislation that would forbid the administration to use its "discretion" to turn illegal aliens loose after they have been arrested.
"The Obama administration should not pick and choose which laws it will enforce," U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said during a committee hearing on the bill.
That's clearly true, so we hope the bill passes.