Commentary by Fight Back! Editors
In the first four years of the Obama administration, there were as many deportations of undocumented immigrants as in the eight years of Bush. Deportations under Obama are now on track to hit 2 million by the end of this year.
While the Obama administration claims that this crackdown is necessary to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), it is pretty clear that the bipartisan CIR is dead for now. There is no bipartisan House bill, with the Republicans who were working with Democrats on a bill backing out. The federal government is partially shut down – not Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) repression though – and the gap between the Democrats and Republicans has never been wider. With the upcoming debt ceiling limit looming, Washington D.C. is all about the budget, not immigration reform.
The Obama administration is also claiming that it is focusing on criminals. But most of those deported have committed no crime. In addition, hundreds of thousands of undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children, and even more parents of undocumented children, have been deported, tearing apart families.
ICE is also doing another round of workplace audits, the so-called ‘silent raids’ that can force the firing of thousands of undocumented workers. While they are not deported, they are driven further underground. Further, their chances of legalization under a future CIR bill could be harmed, in that the current CIR calls for a continuous work record, which won’t exist for undocumented forced to work totally off the books and under the table.
There is a growing demand in the Chicano, Mexicano, Central American and Latino communities for the president to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to all undocumented. Why is the government deporting people who might be eligible to legalize under a future immigration reform bill?
Ultimately, what is needed is legalization for all undocumented. But with no legalization law on the horizon, partial steps such as Deferred Action would help the undocumented. They would be able to work legally and would not be subject to ICE raids. Deferred Action also doesn’t have all of the bad elements of the Senate CIR bill, which would further militarize the border, increase workplace repression, reduce family reunification and end the diversity visa program that brings in about half the immigrants from Africa.
There are shortcomings to Deferred Action. While some states are trying to deny those receiving DACA driver’s licenses, many others would allow them to drive. Those on Deferred Action would still not eligible for Medicaid or federal subsidies for health insurance under the new Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). And of course there is always the possibility that a new administration would even target those on Deferred Action for future deportation.
But by allowing the undocumented to come out of the shadows, they would not only benefit personally, but the movement would have a stronger basis to press for full legalization. The editors of Fight Back! support the growing demand for Deferred Action for All as a practical way to push back against the tsunami of deportations that is happening right now.