In a recent article in the L.A. Times, the paper reported that the Obama administration deported a record number of illegal immigrants in the 2010 fiscal year, according to figures released Wednesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The report noted that, “of the 392,862 deportations from October 2009 through September of this year, about half were illegal immigrants with criminal records. The second straight year of record deportations from the U.S. reflects the approach of ICE under the Obama administration to focus its efforts on removing criminal illegal immigrants “who pose a national security or public safety threat,” Homeland Security Deputy Press Secretary Matt Chandler said in a statement.”
Despite this report, one must question how many of those with “criminal records” were really threats as criminals in the U.S. Although it says these illegal immigrants were ones with criminal records, there is no distinction in the news report between those whose acts were misdemeanor offenses or felony offenses. Under immigration law, some misdemeanor offenses can be waived and therefore allow an immigrant to stay in the U.S. Is immigration being unnecessarily hard on those whose offenses were misdemeanors or is ICE going after those who have committed serious felonies?
The news report further stated that “more than 195,000 criminals were deported in 2010, a 70% increase over 2008 in the forced removal of immigrant criminals. Officials credited the increase to programs such as Secure Communities, which focuses law enforcement resources on identifying illegal immigrants who have committed crimes and are being held in local and state jails. “ICE is committed to tough law enforcement,” agency Director John Morton said.
Again, the report generally makes the correlation between fewer illegal immigrants and toughened up law enforcement. Is it possible that more people are entering the U.S. by legal means through their respective embassies? Is it possible that there are fewer people coming over because jobs are just as hard to find over here as it might be in their home countries?
The report comes at a time when the number of illegal immigrants coming into the U.S. is declining, according to a report released in September by the Pew Hispanic Center. Based on census and labor statistics, the Pew report found that roughly 300,000 illegal immigrants crossed the border annually between 2007 and 2009, down from about 850,000 annually from 2000 to 2005.” The Obama administration said, “When the report was released that the data provided evidence that efforts to improve border security were working. Over the summer, the administration deployed 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to bolster efforts to stop illegal entry, and the U.S. has cracked down on employers who hire illegal immigrants.”
The administration also has weathered criticism from liberals and conservatives over its deportation policy. Immigration reform advocates say President Obama has reneged on a campaign promise to overhaul the government’s immigration policy and instead has favored increased enforcement.
Critics on the Right say ICE is selectively enforcing the immigration laws by focusing on criminals. When the ICE employees union announced a vote of no confidence in Morton’s leadership in June, it cited the agency’s focus on immigrant criminals. “We haven’t done a good job explaining the enforcement strategy,” said an administration official.
It appears that neither the Left nor the Right are sure what to make of the record number of deportations in the U.S. Still unresolved is what to do about the millions of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. “As effective as they are being,” said Angela Kelley, an immigration policy expert at the Center for American Progress, “they can’t deport their way out of the fact that there are 11 million people here without status.”
Such a statement reflects that some are pleased that there appears to be progress in terms of addressing immigration from a standpoint of safety for U.S. citizens, but something needs to be done to bring more people into the system. Although deportations is one way to handle illegal immigration, reform is still necessary for those who are here illegally but did not voluntarily come on their own, such as the children of illegal immigrants who do not know better. Legislation like the former DREAM Act would help address many of the 11 million people who are here without status.