Yesterday, the Obama administration announced its deportation numbers for the past fiscal year. While some headlines focused on the fact that deportations declined compared to the previous year, the sad and simple truth is that the Obama Administration is still deporting more immigrants than any other Administration in history.
President Obama is on track to hit the two millionth deportation under his watch in the first months of 2014 – over one thousand people continue to be deported every day. DHS announced prosecutorial discretion policies in 2011 aimed at focusing immigration enforcement on the ‘worst of the worst,’ and yet these policies have never been fully implemented. As Frank Sharry noted yesterday, “There is a huge gap between what they say and what they do…They claim that most of those being deported are ‘convicted criminals’ – a scary label until you realize that their own definitions of ‘convicted criminals’ include traffic violations and minor nuisance offenses (see here and here for explanations).
Not only are the numbers missing context, but the persistent focus on statistics means that we lose focus on those caught up in the deportation machinery (a system that arose over the past two decades and has been taken to new levels under the Obama Administration). Those deported include fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers. These are workers, business owners, enterpreneurs. We know some of their stories, like Brigido and Ardany, both of whom were recently deported despite public outcry. Both of whom would likely meet the criteria for citizenship under the Senate bill. Their stories, like so many others, get lost in the focus on data. The human story has rarely been told.
That’s why the new story from John Stanton at Buzzfeed is so important. Stanton has written an in-depth piece that captures the real lives and real families impacted by the Obama Administration’s record numbers of deportations and the House Republicans’ unwillingness to pass immigration reform: “The Deported: Life On The Wrong Side Of The Border For Repatriated Mexicans.”
The introductory paragraph is chilling:
For Mexicans in the U.S. sent “home” thanks to increased enforcement of American immigration laws, the country they’re returning to is far more dangerous than the one they initially escaped. They wind up in border towns like Tijuana, Nogales, and Juárez, separated from their families, with no money, no identity, and nowhere to go.
It’s a powerful and timely story, especially in light of the new ICE deportation numbers:
In the last five years more than 1.5 million undocumented migrants have been deported under the Obama administration, which has prioritized deportation in an effort to demonstrate its commitment to “border security” while pursuing legislation designed to provide the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants a path to citizenship. While the impacts of deportation on America may seemingly end at the border, for the deported — in Tijuana, for instance, deportation rates range from 200 to 500 repatriated Mexican citizens every day, while in Nogales 50, 150, or more — it means a whole new set of life-threatening challenges.
For anyone who cares about immigration policy, Stanton’s article is a must-read. The deportation machine created by the Obama administration is ripping apart families in the United States — and leaving many of the immigrants who it deports in dire and inhumane conditions. As he notes, Stanton looked at the situation facing deportees in Tijuana, Nogales and Juarez. This is an example of what he found they encounter in Tijuana:
For those who don’t fall in with the drug dealers and gangs, or who don’t quickly succumb to the harsh realities of life in El Bordo, there are few choices. Some band together in small camps along the banks of the ditch, building crude shelters of sun-faded plastic tarps strung between piles of trash, huddling in the shade by day, shaking in the cold darkness of night, always anticipating the strike of a fist or boot. “The deportees in the canal are living in some of the worst conditions I’ve ever seen,” says Steffanie Strathdee, a researcher with the University of California at San Diego who’s also worked along the Pakistan–Afghanistan border, Islamabad, and inner-city Baltimore. “Nobody should have to live like this.”
The Mexican government offers only nominal assistance to recent deportees: Shelters run by the state take repatriated Mexicans in only for a couple weeks, and because many of them have no Mexican identification, finding work or accessing other services is nearly impossible. The few rays of hope these deportees find — Jesuits and nuns, medical researchers unwilling to turn a blind eye to the despair, and the handful of Mexican and American civilians unable to ignore it — are overwhelmed by the darkness. If illegal immigration is a tidal wave of humanity, then deportation is the riptide, tearing drug dealers, day laborers, restaurant managers, cousins, and mothers from the roots they’ve laid down in the U.S. and washing them back.
And while activists have successfully drawn attention to the price families torn apart by deportation in the U.S. pay as a result of the escalated enforcement, few Americans have ever even thought about what happens when deportees cross the border back into their “home.”
It’s as bad in the other two cities as Stanton details.
The full article is here. Again, worth a read.