Obama must act on immigration reform

In the State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama reiterated his commitment to passing immigration reform that would finally provide protection and a path to citizenship for the estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. According to reports by The New York Times, however, it seems Obama is substituting comprehensive reform with excessive rates of deportation, which have increased by four times since he took office.

Obama has previously stated that the administration wants to focus its efforts on “criminals, gangbangers [and] people who are hurting the community… not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families.” While this is an admirable position, the Times investigation found that approximately two-thirds of those deported had committed only minor crimes or had no criminal record. In theory, enforcing laws designed to deport criminal undocumented immigrants would be a point in Obama’s favor. However, the laws in place today are part of a broken system that is destroying the lives of hard-working immigrants based on minor offenses.

Of the over 2 million undocumented immigrants deported, 60 percent were under the pretext of a minor crime, such as a traffic violation. Under Obama’s tenure as so-called deporter in chief, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency have filed charges in 90 percent of cases under the guidance of new policies set by the Obama administration.

It is difficult for the White House to actively seek out undocumented immigrants farther from the U.S. border since they often have families and have been living there for years. Fewer undocumented immigrants are being caught through raids or profiling, and are instead being processed through the Secure Communities protocol. Under the project that began during Bush’s presidency, anyone who commits a crime can have his fingerprints checked by local jurisdictions, and then cross-checked against immigration databases. Secure Communities is a sly way for the government to deport undocumented immigrants without receiving as much negative media attention.

Undocumented immigrants in this country are often working jobs that Americans do not want. They pay sales, property and income taxes that they will never receive returns on, contributing $22.4 billion each year. While excessive deportations may have succeeded in appeasing Republicans, they have actually detracted from the administration’s attempts to enact comprehensive immigration legislation. Congress failed to take initiative on a major proposal in 2013, but Obama has the executive power to bring reform back to the forefront. He should use his authority to put an end to unreasonable deportation for minor offenses so he and Congress can work toward more permanent legislation.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 8 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected] 

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