Back in August of last year, the Obama administration announced it would generally not deport those who arrived in the United States as minors and who have either graduated from high school or served in the U.S. military. The administration also said it would prioritize deporting unauthorized immigrants who are convicted criminals or who are considered threats to national security or public safety.
As reported at Politico, the new policy could earn Barack Obama “huge political dividends” with the important Latino voting bloc. But there are political risks.
Immigration advocates say the new policy, which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has defended, has raised expectations in immigrant communities that deportations of mostly law-abiding illegal immigrants will end immediately. Those hopes could turn to disappointment if the process bogs down in bureaucracy and inconsistency. Just ask Luis Martinez.
Bank reports undocumented customer to immigration
Luis Martinez had been a client of Bank of America for 14 years. He had a mortgage and two other accounts with the bank and had lived a quiet, life as a cook and gardener in Sacramento, until his bank reported him to immigration authorities. He beat deportation, thanks to the new policy, but he was jailed and his incarceration destroyed his finances and his home went into foreclosure. He sued the bank but his case was dismissed by a federal judge in California last week.
Critics say the policy smacks of presidential politics and will waste federal money by suspending deportation cases that already are completed. They also argue there’s no way to predict who poses a threat to public safety, so some individuals allowed to stay in the U.S. could go on to commit serious crimes.
2011 Saw Record Deportations
End-of-the year reports showed that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made 396,906 deportations in fiscal year 2011. This represents a slight increase from 2010, when about 392,000 people were deported. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano indicated in an October 2011 press release that 55 percent of the 2011 deportees had felony or misdemeanor criminal convictions.
According to ICE, the number of deportations reflects a general increase the past five years:
FY 2010 = 392,862
FY 2009 = 389,834
FY 2008 = 369,221
FY 2007 = 291,060
DUI offenders made up a large number (35,927) of those deported in fiscal year 2011, as did people convicted of drug-related offenses (44,653). Violent offenders (homicide, 1,119; sexual offenses, 5,848) were fewer in number, according to ICE.
In a recent review ordered by the Obama administration, prosecutors in Denver, Colorado, identified 1,300 foreigners in immigration court who pose no security risk to the United States. These foreign-born persons will be allowed to remain in the U.S. Immigration rights advocates argue that these people will be in “limbo,” allowed to stay but unable to work legally or to obtain driver’s licenses. Republican critics, however, argue that the policy itself constitutes an “end run” around Congress. (Sources: The New York Times, Multi-American (KPCC), andFrontline (PBS).)
Senate Expresses Regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
Without fanfare, last October, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution, SR 201, expressing regret for having previously passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 as well as regret for subsequent laws that discriminated against Chinese immigrants. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Scott Brown (R-MA) co-sponsored SR201, which the Senate unanimously approved. Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) will sponsor a companion bill in the House.
The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act placed a 10-year moratorium on all Chinese labor immigration and prevented Chinese immigrants in the United States from becoming citizens. It was the first ban on immigration to the United States. Prior to the Act, U.S. borders were open. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle.)