As a proud liberal and a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party, it isn't easy to point to all the immense problems our administration is responsible for when it comes to immigration.
President Obama has recently come under heavy criticism by immigration advocates for the record number of deportations occurring under his administration. The administration is now close to deporting 2 million immigrants, by far more than any other previous administration, including former President George W. Bush.
As President Obama travels the country advocating for immigration reform, his administration continues to actively engage in the deportations of the very same people Obama talks about helping in his speeches. The Obama administration has become profoundly effective in using and enforcing the same immigration system they acknowledge to be broken.
The president of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the country's largest Latino advocacy group and a loyal ally to Obama, has gone as far as to call President Obama the “deporter-in-chief.” And now, The New York Times has joined in the debate, publishing a very well-articulated op-ed on the administration's failure to do something consequential regarding immigration.
Read more on The New York Times' criticism of President Obama regarding deportations below the jump.From The New York Times:
If President Obama means what he says about wanting an immigration system that reflects American values, helps the economy and taps the yearnings of millions of Americans-in-waiting, he is going to have to do something about it – soon and on his own. It has been frustrating to watch his yes-we-can promises on immigration reform fade to protestations of impotence and the blaming of others. All Mr. Obama has been saying lately is: No, in fact, we can't, because Republicans and the law won't let me.
Criticism by The New York Times and other immigration advocates centers around the record number of deportations the administration has been responsible for over the past 5 years, averaging 395,500 deportations every year. To put this in perspective, over 1,000 immigrants are deported every day.
The vast majority of people being deported are not criminals, but simply people who committed minor offenses, including traffic violations. For example, in the state of Texas, immigrants cannot legally acquire a driver's license. If they are stopped while driving a vehicle for whatever minor of reason, they can be helped detained by local police through programs like Secure Communities, and forced to face deportation by ICE. It doesn't matter if they were on their way to work, were on their way to class, or were simply going to pick up their kids at school that day.
80 percent of all undocumented immigrants deported by ICE last year did not fit the agency's definition of a “Level 1” priority. These deportations continue to break families apart, having already left over 5,000 children in foster care.
Following a growing criticism by Latino groups and immigration advocates, President Obama has promised to redirect the administration to find more “humane” ways to continue to deport people. But The New York Times argues this isn't enough:
Those who would qualify for legalization under a Senate bill passed last summer – people who do not pose criminal threats, who have strong ties to this country and, in many cases, have children who are American citizens – should not be in danger of deportation.
Because Republicans have taken hostage reform efforts in the House, President Obama should focus on halting the deportations of people these same efforts are attempting to help. The same way he lawfully was able to defer the deportation of Dreamers, The New York Times argues “[t]here is no good reason not to extend similar relief to the Dreamers' parents, or to the parents of citizen children and others who pose no threat and should likewise be allowed to live and work here while efforts to pass reform continue.”
According to the same article, solutions the administration can follow also include: Making noncriminals and minor offenders the lowest deportation priorities by ICE and Border Patrol, end federal programs that are abused in deportation like Secure Communities, abandon quota-based enforcement, require bond hearings for people held longer than six months, end solitary confinement and other cruel punishment, and direct resources to combat actual violent criminals.
While these actions do not constitute as comprehensive immigration reform, they are federal steps President Obama is lawfully able to make to help move immigration in the right direction, without waiting on Republicans to act in Congress. President Obama cannot stand by this chaos and place the complete fate of immigrants on the hands of Republicans. He, especially, cannot use massive deportations as a “strategy” to win over Republican support, says The New York Times:
Mr. Obama may argue that he can't be too aggressive in halting deportations because that will make the Republicans go crazy, and there's always hope for a legislative solution. He has often seemed like a bystander to the immigration stalemate, watching the wheels spin, giving speeches and hoping for the best.
President Obama has shown time and again he is capable of more than just making promises. The time for him to act on immigration is now.