This week, the Migration Policy Institute released a report, The Deportation Dilemma: Reconciling Tough and Humane Enforcement, which “analyze[d] the current pipelines for removal and key trends in border and interior apprehensions, deportations and criminal prosecutions. ” The report begins:
The United States has deported a record number of unauthorized immigrants and other removable noncitizens in recent years. More than 4.5 million noncitizens have been removed since Congress passed sweeping legislation in 1996 to toughen the nation’s immigration enforcement system. The pace of formal removals has quickened tremendously, rising from about 70,000 in 1996 to 419,000 in 2012.
Because of that massive increase in deportations, the Obama administration has been under intense criticism. The MPI report validated much of that criticism. For example, the report:
- asserted that implementation of prosecutorial discretion, as outlined in August of 2011, has been uneven across the country. The DHS headquarters has been too hands-off and has not directed field offices on how to implement it;
- identified enforcement as being tougher now for a multitude of reasons, from 1996 laws to current congressional appropriations to Obama Administration decisions (and the administration could change those policies);
- pointed that the U.S. Border Patrol has in some ways operated like an interior enforcement agency, but is not subject to the same prosecutorial discretion guidance as ICE and that should be attended to; and
- criticized the escalation in immigration criminal prosecutions at the hands of the Department of Justice.
There were other key points. MPI’s report stated that the President has the authority to expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to other groups. And, it explained that although DHS has made progress in focusing interior enforcement on the Administration’s priorities, its priorities, as written, are too broad and sweep up people who would otherwise be strong candidates for relief.
Organizations that have led the fight to end the Obama administration’s aggressive deportation policy also spoke out following release of the MPI report. Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) said:
The report confirms what we already know: the president has not yet exercised the full extent of his existing legal authority to protect immigrants from grave injustice caused by outdated laws and policies. It is increasingly clear the President’s immigration policy will evolve soon, and the only questions that remain now are about the timing and scope of expected action. And while there is an effort underway to manage policy expectations, the report makes clear that the limiting factor preventing President Obama from providing relief is 100% political. But the political obstacles are being removed.
We are grateful to MPI for its effort to cut through ICE’s spin and opaque reporting in order to accurately describe the status quo. But that description has been fully known for years despite ICE’s distortions. ICE is a rogue agency, it has expanded its definition of the word “priority” in order to give itself high marks, and it has pursued deportation policy that is criminalizing migrants.
United We Dream Director of Policy and Advocacy, Lorella Praeli, also weighed in:
This latest report is further proof that the President can and must act now to fix our community’s moral crisis, and stop separating hardworking families. It also dispels the notion that you will not be deported if ‘you’re a run-of-the-mill’ immigrant as former ICE Director John Sandweg suggested.
The President has the existing legal authority to do more now, and United We Dream will continue holding him accountable. Our community has made its demands, and we will fight back against anyone who stands in the way of our dignity and justice.