Lawrence Downes with the New York Times editorial board has just published an excellent post highlighting key deportation reports released this week — from the New York Times front-page feature to yesterday’s TRAC data. The evidence makes it clear, he writes: President Obama has spent the last five years deporting the wrong people. It’s an ironic place for him to be in, considering that Obama campaigned against Bush’s deportation record — and considering that Jeb Bush is currently demonstrating more empathy toward immigrants. Read the full Lawrence Downes post here or below:
President Obama has been spent the last five years deporting the wrong people. The evidence is pretty clear.
On Monday, The Times reported that most of those deported by the Obama administration don’t fit the profile of serious criminals, threats to public safety, “the worst of the worst,” as Janet Napolitano, Mr. Obama’s first Homeland Security secretary, used to put it.
Far from it. “Two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases,” Ginger Thompson wrote, “involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.”
On Tuesday, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research organization at Syracuse University that studies immigration statistics, reported similar findings. It found that in fiscal year 2013, “only 12 percent of all deportees had been found to have committed a serious or ‘Level 1’ offense based on the agency’s own definitions.”
The administration has defended its record in deporting huge numbers of “convicted criminals.” But the TRAC report noted some slipperiness in how that term is used.
ICE currently uses an exceedingly broad definition of criminal behavior: even very minor infractions are included. For example, anyone with a traffic ticket for exceeding the speed limit on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway who sends in their check to pay their fine has just entered ICE’s “convicted criminal” category. If the same definitions were applied to every citizen — rather than just to noncitizens — available evidence (see TRAC’s February 2012 report) suggests that the majority of U.S. citizens would be considered convicted criminals.
Immigration reform is in a bad place. We are stuck in a rut of inaction and blame, with fingers pointing all over the place. House Speaker John Boehner says the Republicans can’t do anything, because Mr. Obama won’t enforce the law. Mr. Obama says it’s the Republicans’ fault. He is being pushed to act on his own to end the deportation crisis, but he is being noncommittal and vague.
Meanwhile, here comes Jeb Bush, the Republican former governor of Florida who may want to run for president in two years. He recently said that people entering the country illegally did not do so for criminal reasons, but to keep their families together. “It’s not a felony,” he said. “It’s an act of love.”
Mr. Obama is in a strange place. He has spent his presidency in a vain effort to promote reform by out-toughing Republicans on immigration, including his predecessor George W. Bush.
Now he is caught between two Bushes.
The one hope for a new direction in this administration may be the new Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, who does not carry the baggage of the Napolitano years.
Mr. Johnson had a Q.-and-A. session on Twitter this afternoon. He was asked about the review of Homeland Security’s immigration enforcement policies that Mr. Obama had recently asked him to conduct — how soon would it be done, and would there be a report?
“We need to be sure we get this right,” Mr. Johnson said. “Let’s say ‘very soon’ & yes it will be public.”