April 2, 2014
As seen in:
The Press Enterprise
Multiple protests around the country this week are urging President Barack Obama to issue a moratorium on deportations, reflecting immigrant-rights advocates’ waning hope for immigration reform this year.
Inland activists plan to demonstrate Thursday in front of the San Bernardino office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Activists in more than 40 other cities nationwide are planning similar events, mostly on Saturday, as part of the Not One More Deportation campaign launched by the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
Some community-based groups long have been harshly critical of Obama for his administration’s record on deporting undocumented immigrants. But in recent weeks, some large, mainstream Latino and immigrant-rights leaders and Democratic politicians have begun using more forceful language against the president. Last month, National Council of La Raza’s president and CEO, Janet Murguia, called Obama the “deporter-in-chief.”
In the past, Washington-based insider groups worried that being too critical of the president would endanger efforts to pass immigration reform, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, an associate professor of political science at UC Riverside and an expert on immigration politics. With immigration reform stalled, attention is shifting to deportations, he said.
Obama backs a path to citizenship for millions now living in the country illegally, and in June 2013 the Senate approved a bill with such a provision. But House Speaker John Boehner has refused to call a vote on a path to citizenship in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives because it does not have the support of most Republicans.
The Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California, a participant in the San Bernardino protest, is still advocating for immigration reform, said the group’s lead coordinator, Fernando Romero.
“But deportations and unjust detentions are more pressing because they’re happening right now,” he said. “Families are being torn apart.”
LAW AND FAMILIES
The protests come as the Obama administration is, by some counts, nearing its 2 millionth deportation and ejecting people in greater numbers than his predecessors did.
Nearly 1.6 million people have been deported from fiscal year 2009, which began a few months before Obama took office, to fiscal year 2012, which ended in September 2012, according to the Department of Homeland Security. That number, the most up-to-date complete deportation figure available, doesn’t include people who did not receive a formal order of removal, such as many recent border-crossers.
Dianey Murillo of Riverside, one of the organizers of Thursday’s protest and a member of the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition, is temporarily protected from deportation through the Obama administration’s deferred action program, which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and meet other conditions to legally live and work in the United States.
But Murillo, 21, who arrived from Mexico at age 8, said she worries about her parents, who don’t qualify for the program.
“Our parents deserve to be here just as much as we do,” she said.
But Joe Guzzardi, spokesman for the anti-illegal-immigration Californians for Population Stabilization, said Obama already has gone too far in protecting the young immigrants from deportation and giving low priority to apprehending people in the country illegally who are not criminals, repeat immigration-law violators or recent border-crossers.
A moratorium on deportations or a severe cutback would make a mockery of the law and lead more people to illegally cross the border, Guzzardi said.
“Immigration laws have to be enforced,” he said.
Anti-illegal-immigration activists are planning to counter the Not One More Deportation protests with a rally Saturday in San Juan Capistrano calling for increased enforcement.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, a supporter of a path to citizenship, said a complete moratorium on deportations could make immigration reform more difficult to pass.
But he called on the Obama administration to concentrate even more tightly on locating and deporting serious criminals.
“ICE and the immigration authorities should not go out of their way to go after people who are working, and to break up families,” he said.
Rep. Ken Calvert, a Corona Republican, opposes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as adults but supports it for many of those who came as children.
“We need to increase enforcement actions, not weaken them,” Calvert said.
“All of these tougher enforcement actions are critical to establishing the foundation of a functional immigration system and must be part of any reform effort,” he said in a statement.
Obama has said he does not have the power to halt or greatly reduce deportations. Others disagree.
“The president has great power when it comes to enforcing any law,” and could significantly expand the deferred action program he instituted for young undocumented immigrants, although opponents would likely challenge such a move in court, said Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC Davis law school and an expert on immigration law.
Marisa Franco, campaign organizer for the day-laborer network, said stopping deportations protects people who would be eligible for eventual citizenship under immigration reform.
“Why deport someone today who could be eligible for relief tomorrow?” Franco asked.
Contact David Olson at 951-368-9462 or [email protected]
The number of people formally deported under the Obama administration is higher than under previous administrations, but the number of people “returned” — deported without a formal “order of removal” — is down dramatically. Experts say that is because many fewer people have attempted to cross the border in recent years because of a struggling U.S. economy and increased border enforcement.
165,168 in fiscal 2002, the first full fiscal year George W. Bush was president.
359,795 in fiscal 2008, the last full fiscal year of Bush’s presidency.
383,031 in fiscal 2010, the first full fiscal year Barack Obama was president.
419,384 under Obama in fiscal 2012.
RETURNS WITHOUT FORMAL DEPORTATION
1,012,116 in fiscal 2002.
811,263 in fiscal 2008.
474,275 in fiscal 2010.
229,968 in fiscal 2012.
SOURCE: DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY 2012 IMMIGRATION YEARBOOK OF IMMIGRATION STATISTICS