Immigration issues were heavily spotlighted in the 2012 presidential election, arguably gaining more limelight and press coverage than almost any other issue. During President Obama’s bid for re-election, he told American voters that he was committed to prioritizing his administration’s immigration enforcements efforts by focusing on deporting foreign nationals who committed violent crimes or terrorist acts. In doing so, the President aimed to promote family unity by keeping together mixed families, where one member is a U.S. citizen and one is a foreign national – notwithstanding the foreign family member’s immigration status. The greatly lauded and widely talked about DACA policy, which temporarily suspends deportation proceedings for qualified immigrant minors, was part of the President’s plan.
While many political promises do not pan out, it appears that President Obama’s administration has indeed decreased deportations. A recent report by an immigration official stated that, in 2013, the U.S. government deported approximately 368,444 foreign nationals, a figure that represents an estimated 10% decrease in deportations from 2012. Notably, even considering the U.S. deported hundreds of thousands of individuals, there are still 11 million foreign nationals living in the U.S. without legal status.
Who is Deported?
Keeping in line with President Obama’s prioritization directive, immigration enforcement officers report that about 89% of the 2013 deported foreign nationals were classified as convicted criminals, national security risks, serious immigration offenders, or recent border crossers. Further, approximately 59% of that group had criminal records. John Sandweg, the Acting Director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, stated that this percentage of deporting serious immigration offenders constituted a “record high” in recent years.
Reaction to the Statistics
Even in the face of record high numbers, the new deportation statistics will likely generate discussion and criticism on both ends of the political spectrum as Democrats will likely want to see an even more marked decreased in deportations, whereas Republicans will probably use these figures to support their argument that President Obama has purposefully stopped enforcing immigration laws.
Putting aside how lawmakers will interpret these statistics, Hispanic-born Americans, one of the demographics most affected by deportation, are still greatly concerned about these figures. According to the Pew Research Center (PRC), approximately 60% of foreign-born Latinos and 46% of the entire Latino population are worried that a close friend or family member may be deported from the United States.
The PRC survey further reports that many Latinos feel that immigration reform legislation that ensures protection from deportation is a higher priority than legislation that would give undocumented foreign nationals a route to citizenship. Interestingly, the survey also found that, of the Latino foreign nationals who came to the U.S. legally, less than half of them applied for U.S. citizenship, citing application and processing costs, as well as concerns with meeting the English language requirement, as reasons for foregoing citizenship.
While a significant decrease in deportations is good news for immigration advocates, millions of undocumented foreign nationals are still waiting for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform to address their circumstances. Continue to follow our blog as we provide readers with up-to-date immigration news.
Additional Blog Posts
Democrats Propose New Immigration Reform, ImmigRantings, July 20, 2011
Congress Asks DHS to Grant Temporary Protected Status to Filipinos, ImmigRantings, December 5, 2013