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Deportations May Be Down A Bit, But Not Nearly Enough

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Yesterday, Bloomberg News reported on a possible drop in the number of deportations by the Obama administration:

In his first term, President Barack Obama highlighted record deportations to show he was getting tough on immigration enforcement, which Republicans and even some Democrats have demanded as a condition for overhauling existing laws.

The last fiscal year was different. The government deported 343,020 people in the U.S. illegally from Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 7, 2013, the most recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement data show. If that pace continued through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, removals would reach a six-year low.

The drop, which comes as Obama faces growing criticism from Hispanics over deportations, is a result of a new policy of focusing limited enforcement resources “on public safety, national security and border security,” ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said. “ICE has been vocal about the shift in our immigration-enforcement strategy,” she said. “Our removal numbers illustrate this.”

Of course, those numbers aren’t entirely final.  And we know that ICE agents continue to fight requests to close low priority cases every single day. From Yahoo News:

But the lower deportation numbers do not satisfy reform advocates.

“The Obama administration is still deporting hundreds of thousands of people each year that would qualify for a path to citizenship under legislation the administration supports,” said Frank Sharry, the head of America’s Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group. “That is outrageous. If they fully implemented their existing policies on the use of discretion on keeping the focus on bad actors, they would be reducing deportations much more significantly.”

And, that view is shared by Democratic lawmakers, notably House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who spoke to Telemundo over the weekend, before the leak of the new deportation numbers:

Earlier this month, nearly 30 House Democrats sent a letter to Obama calling on him to expand his deferred action program to millions more who would be eligible for citizenship under immigration reform. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a Telemundo interview over the weekend that it’s “wrong” to deport someone for not having legal immigration status.

“Our view of the law is, if somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not reason for deportation,” Pelosi said. “If someone has broken the law or committed a felony or something, that is a different story.”

That’s right — and, that’s what the policy is supposed to be. But, it’s not. Every day, more than 1,000 people are still deported. Many, like Brigido and Ardany, would meet the criteria for citizenship under the Senate bill. But, very recently, ICE still deported both of those men. The process is still broken.

We need a permanent legislative solution. In the meantime, the Obama administration should follow its stated policy, which, as Frank Sharry told Yahoo, would reduce the number of deportations much more significantly.