Under pressure from immigrant rights activists, earlier this year President Obama promised a full review of his administration’s deportation policies. The Obama administration has deported a record number of immigrants and earned him the title “Deporter in Chief.” But then Obama told the head of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, to hold off on the report he had prepared in order to give Congress a chance to act. Obama vowed to take action at the end of summer if Congress didn’t act before their break in September.
But now Obama has backtracked again, saying that he won’t take action until after the election. Obama and some Democratic Senators, including even so-called liberals like Al Franken of Minnesota, are worried that slowing the tide of deportations could hurt their election efforts in November. While Obama has accused the Republicans of playing politics with the immigration issue, this latest action shows that he is also willing to sacrifice the hopes and dreams of tens of thousands of immigrants for political gain.
The Obama Administration has deported more than two million undocumented immigrants. While the rate of deportations has slowed from last year to about 750 per day, Obama’s delay of deportation relief will mean at least 50,000 more deportations. In addition, Obama announced that he would also take executive action to further militarize the border with Mexico which has led to hundreds of deaths of Mexicans and Central Americans immigrants.
The militarization of the border that began in a big way under President Clinton has profoundly changed the undocumented population in the United States. What once was a group of mainly men who were either single or left their families behind who tended to regularly return home and then come back to the United States has now become of much more settled community of immigrants and their families. There are now about four and a half million? U.S. citizen children with at least one undocumented parent living in the United States whose families continue to be torn apart by deportations. In addition, the typical undocumented immigrant today has been in the United States an average of thirteen years while the percentage who came in the last five years has dropped into the teens. While the Obama administration claims that they are focusing on deporting criminals, the vast majority of those who are deported have no major criminal record.
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented who were brought here as children now are finding at least temporary relief with Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program. They are now able to work, get a driver’s license, and come out of the shadows. Their parents and siblings who don’t qualify are under constant threat of deportation. The Legalization for All (L4A) Network calls on Obama to grant deferred action to them and to all the undocumented. As long as Congress refuses to act, why should Obama keep deporting those who might be eligible for a legalization program in the future? Rather than bowing again to the Republicans and right-wing anti-immigrant forces, Obama ought to look them in the eye and tell that he is going to take action since they refuse to.