tags: , , , , , Blog, Press Releases

ICYMI: Pressure Grows for Administration to Reform Deportation Policies

Share This:

New Washington Post Editorial, TRAC Study and Vox Backgrounder Make the Case

While many advocates continue to pressure House Republicans to take action on immigration reform legislation, there is also growing pressure on the Obama Administration to get ready to take executive action if the House continues to slow-walk reform.  A number of new analyses, editorials, and backgrounders help make the case for why bold executive action is needed to roll back the excesses of the Administration’s aggressive approach to enforcing immigration laws.

A Washington Post editorial today notes:

[E]ven as Mr. Obama’s approach has broken up countless families with deep roots in the United States, it has been politically fruitless.

Given the human costs, what is the point of maintaining such a rigid policy, especially one at odds with the president’s stated goals? In particular, why continue to expend scarce law enforcement resources on deporting undocumented immigrants with no criminal records or whose offenses involve loitering or minor traffic violations?

Under pressure from immigrant advocacy groups, which have taken to referring to the president as the “deporter in chief,” Mr. Obama has ordered a review of deportation policy.  Any shift toward leniency will prompt more cries of selective enforcement from Republicans.  Yet it is the GOP that has helped create and sustain the crisis in immigration policy by refusing, year after year, any reasonable reform.  Such reform would recognize America’s need for a steady supply of low-skilled labor and for some sustainable status for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are ineluctable parts of U.S. communities.

A new study by TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, shows why such reform is sorely needed, providing a detailed statistical overview of how the administration’s record high numbers of deportations includes a disturbing emphasis on reclassifying immigration and traffic law violators as “convicted criminals”:

During the past six years — from the last year of the Bush administration through the first five years of the Obama administration — government records indicate over 2.3 million noncitizens were deported by ICE. This spans the entire period from just before the Secure Communities program was launched under President Bush in October 2008 to its extension to virtually all jurisdictions across the nation — some 3,181 — by the end of fiscal year 2013.

Analysis of ICE data covering these 2.3 million deportations obtained by TRAC show that while the agency was able to increase the number of noncitizens it deported who had been convicted of a crime, this was largely a result of an increase in the deportations of individuals whose most serious conviction was an immigration or traffic violation.

In fact, after Director Morton on June 30 of 2010 directed a renewed focus on finding and deporting “convicted criminals” who posed a serious threat to public safety or endangered national security, the number of individuals deported who have been convicted of any criminal offense apart from an immigration or traffic violation has actually declined.

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. (Obviously, many individuals who engage in such illegal behaviors are never ticketed or charged.) Indeed, if truth be known it is likely that almost everyone — members of the public and government officials alike — would have to admit that they have engaged in “criminal” behavior as ICE uses that term.

A Vox.com backgrounder by Dara Lind, “Obama is deporting more immigrants than any president in history: explained,” provides an overview on the numbers and nuances of the Obama Administration’s deportation record, including an important reminder about who is classified as a “border crosser”:

The government’s definition of ‘border’ stretches 100 miles from the actual border… A majority of the US population lives in this ‘border’ area.  So an immigrant living in Forks, Washington, or anywhere in Florida, counts as a ‘recent border crosser’ no matter how long he’s been in the country…

Lind also provides an overview of what reforms the administration can take if House Republicans continue to block a legislative solution:

…Given how much the deportation machine has grown over the last decade, there are plenty of things the Administration could decide to do.  However, actually implementing any change is going to require the cooperation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for deportations.  And that agency has been resistant to any of the administration’s attempts to go easier on any unauthorized immigrants.

Democrats have been insinuating the results of the President’s deportation review will come by July 4th. That review — and its implementation — will show how much Obama can put the brakes on the deportation machine he helped build.