Aug.19, 2011 Under fire from Hispanic groups for record-high deportations, the Obama administration said Thursday it will undertake a case-by-case review of illegal immigrants who are facing ouster from the country and will allow many who don’t have criminal records the chance to stay. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that there will be an indefinite delay in many deportations and individual case reviews of the approximately 300,000 illegal immigrants who are currently facing possible expulsion, the AP reported.
Last year, the Obama administration deported nearly 400,000 people — a record number. Of the 393,000 deported, fewer than half of those were convicted criminals.The rising number of deportations has angered the Hispanic community, a key voting bloc for President Barack Obama, and there were protests organized by Latinos around the country about it earlier this week.
The administration said Thursday its top priority will be targeting illegal immigrants with criminal convictions for deportation. Those who are low priorities for deporting — such as young people who were brought to the U.S. as children, military veterans and spouses of military personnel — will no longer be a focus. The case-by-case review will allow the Dept. of Homeland Security and Dept. of Justice to clear out the low-priority cases and ensure that illegal immigrants with criminal convictions or who pose a security risk are at the forefront of the deportation pipeline.
“They will be applying common sense guidelines to make these decisions, like a person’s ties and contributions to the community, their family relationships and military service record,” White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz wrote on the White House blog. “In the end, this means more immigration enforcement pressure where it counts the most, and less where it doesn’t – that’s the smartest way to follow the law while we stay focused on working with the Congress to fix it.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — a major advocate for the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — said the new process will stop almost all deportations of people that his legislation is designed to protect.“We need to be doing all we can to keep these talented, dedicated, American students here, not wasting increasingly precious resources sending them away to countries they barely remember,” Durbin said in a statement. “The Administration’s new process is a fair and just way to deal with an important group of immigrant students and I will closely monitor DHS to ensure it is fully implemented.”
And Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) released a statement praising the move, saying it is “a step in the right direction.” He also called for Congress to work together toward “enacting tough, smart, and fair comprehensive immigration reform.”
On Tuesday, demonstrators protested in a half dozen cities around the country, including at Obama’s 2012 campaign headquarters in Chicago, saying the administration has not fulfilled his promise to target only the “worst of the worst.”