Although an immigration reform proposal has been introduced into the U.S. Senate, deportations of immigrants who may be eligible for the 13 year-long pathway to citizenship promised by the bill continue to be removed from the country. What’s more, with President Barack Obama’s record-setting deportations, it would seem that large numbers of potentially eligible immigrants will not be able to benefit from a law, were it to be passed.
The administration has, thus far, ignored calls from pro-immigrant activists to halt deportations while the immigration reform bill is under consideration.
“Every day that Congress fails to pass immigration reform legislation, 1,100 families are torn apart,” Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice for the Center for Community Change and a spokesperson for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a coalition of the largest immigrant rights organizations, told Politic365.
“It is immoral and cruel that family members who would be eligible for citizenship under this bill are being detained and deported even as we speak. We are calling on the administration to put a moratorium on all deportations while Congress debates the bill,” she added.
It is widely known that President Obama has the strange distinction of, at once, carrying Latino voters and having deported more immigrants than President George W. Bush — or any other president in history. Since fiscal year 2009 more than 1.5 million have been deported, most of them during Obama’s presidency. A look at deportations since shows a progressive pattern on the administration’s part:
- 2009 – 395,000
- 2010 – 387,000
- 2011 – 397,000
- 2012 – 409,849
And some project more than 2 million deportations by 2014. Whether the country will have a new immigration law by that time is highly debatable.
While the Obama administration claims the bulk of these deportations are of criminals, year after year of record breaking deportations begs the question of how so many immigrants turned into lawbreakers since Obama took office.
Finally, the existence of substantial “pet projects” by Senators who crafted the immigration reform legislation seems to undermine the seriousness of the efforts to actually create reform. For example, according to the Wall Street Journal:
- South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham would be able to offer more visas for the meat packing industry (20,000 additional visas for meat cutters and trimmers);
- New York’s Charles Schumer can bring home more visas for Irish workers, 10,500 for those with a high school education or above;
- Florida’s Marco Rubio can boast that foreign workers be allowed to work on cruise ship repairs in the U.S.;
- Colorado’s Michael Bennet can boast about more visas for ski instructors from overseas;
- High skill construction workers like electricians could get low-skill visas;
- Foreign workers would be able to work in disaster relief and infrastructure repairs;
- 5,000 more visas for Afghans who worked for American media, NGOs or the government;
- Longer visa stays for Canadian winter tourists, or snowbirds.
Despite all these carefully thought-out provisions, what to do about people who came into the U.S. after December 31, 2011 or people who are currently in deportation proceedings but would be eligible for the law has not been thought out. And while the Obama administration refuses to put an end to deportations, it seems likely that it will be another record breaking year for undocumented immigrant removal.