This afternoon ICE released its statistics for deportations for 2013, citing 370,000 removals in the past year. NDLON’s initial statement is located here.
Every Removal has a Personal Story
The administration will attempt to paint people caught at the border as unknown, suspicious, and undesirable. But frequently they are people who were trying to return to their families after travelling across the border to attend a funeral or a birth. Perhaps they are people trying to return home to the US. The White House says it prioritizes “egregious immigration offenders” and “recent border crossers,” which begs the question: how many of these are people whose families are divided between countries and separated by broken policies? How many people reentering are simply trying to come back to children they love?
White House Deportation Policy is Politically Motivated and Morally Indefensible
It’s clear that the President’s dual position of “deporter-in-chief”and champion-of-reform is untenable and mutually exclusive.
It’s universally accepted–and confirmed by today’s report–that the president has discretion when it comes to immigration enforcement. The fact that he hasn’t fully exercised this discretion reflects the limitations of his political calculus not his legal authority. The White House has sought to blame and appease nativists at the same time: blame them for blocking reform while appeasing them by expanding the criminalization of immigrants and a culture of suspicion.
The politics are changing though, as it is unpopular to be responsible for separating families. However, the policies just aren’t changing fast enough. To accelerate the process, the President needs to reverse the deportation apparatus he’s built in the past five years and expand relief so that people don’t have to worry about being one of the statistics reported today.
Ju Hong Was Right: President Obama Has Discretion to Reduce Deportations AND Expand Relief
If the numbers can be lowered in the fifth year of his administration, they could’ve been lowered in the first. The President’s hands are not tied. Today is evidence that he has options when it comes to the suffering caused by deportation. Removal numbers can go down further, and deferred action eligibility can expand.
The President still has to answer for the hundreds of thousands of families he has already separated. And looking forward, especially with a new DHS Secretary, the administration needs to clearly define its goals for enforcement and discretion, and it needs repudiate the deportation quota once and for all.
Numbers Will Go Up and Down, but Criminalization has Been Woven into Fabric of this Administration
As we’ve witnessed, deportation numbers can be driven up or down based on the political whims of the administration and Congress. But what’s consistent is the path of criminalization paved by the Obama White House during its tenure. By prosecuting re-entries as criminal felonies, entangling local police in immigration enforcement through the Secure Communities deportation quota program, and perpetuating a narrative of “deserving and undeserving” immigrants, the administration has transformed the landscape of immigration policy in Sheriff Arpaio’s image.
President Obama will have to decide: Is his legacy Arizona or California?
Today, the President has the authority and the option to sever ICE’s ties with demagogue sheriffs and states like Arizona, where SB1070’s Section 2(b) (the infamous “racial profiling” section) is still in effect.
At this point, with demonstrable rights violations, continued collaboration marks the Obama Administration as an accomplice wherever it continues to empower racist law enforcement. Whatever political gains the President sought by previously challenging Arizona 1070 supporters are now over. In fact, his own policies now resemble Arizona’s more than other places. In the weeks ahead, California will implement its TRUST ACT to put brakes on S-Comm in the state. Will the President’s next move bring him closer to California (and his own rhetoric) or continue the Arizonification he started with Napolitano?