Earlier this week, the government released deportation statistics for 2010.
As a Moreno Valley immigration lawyer, I know the reality behind these numbers. I understand the human agony of these families.
Speaking at a press conference, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano noted the Obama administration had failed yet succeeded. She explained the government did not reach its goal of 400, 000 deportations for this fiscal year. But she emphasized, “It has been another record-breaking year at ICE—one that has seen ICE enforce the law at record levels.”
Learning about this news as I drove back from an immigration detention center, I did not share Napolitano’s enthusiasm. I had just visited a Temecula immigration client at the Lancaster detention center. He had been arrested and placed in immigration custody because of his failure to wear a seat belt. He had lived in the U.S. since the early 1990s, and he had no previous arrests or convictions.
According to the administration’s notions of law and order, he is an immigration criminal.
Deportation Numbers For 2010
According to the government, there were 392,862 deportations made from October 2009 through September 2010. This is the second year in a row where the Obama administration has set new deportation standards.
In the first year under President Obama, the Department of Homeland Security reported 298,401 immigrants were removed from the United States. An additional 89,389 immigrants left under voluntary departure orders. Combined, the 2009 total was 387,790 deportations.
This is not the Obama most blended immigrant families thought they were helping to elect.
By comparison, in fiscal year 2008, during George Bush’s final year as President, the government removed 264,541 immigrants and 104,680 left the country under voluntary departure orders. In total, there were 369,221 immigrant deportations.
Don’t Believe The Disclaimers: Deportation Quotas Exist
Several months ago, in Deportations Of Immigrants Are Growing, I discussed a leaked memo showing the government had set a quota of 400,000 for 2010 deportations.
The news spread like wildfire. Previously, quotas for deportations had never been discussed. The administration quickly attempted to defuse the memo’s validity.
Almost immediately after the leak became public news, ICE Director John Morton denied the existence of such quotas. All other administration officials gave the same response when they were questioned.
Napolitano’s recent speech, however, confirmed the quota memo. She acknowledged the government feel short of its 400,000 deportation goal.
When it comes to immigration, this discrepancy again shows the administration’s refusal to be honest with the public.
It also demonstrated the administration’s decision to abandon true immigration reform.
Who Are The Deportation Targets?
Discussing the record-breaking deportation totals, Napolitano said ICE’s approach was handled in “sensible, firm and thoughtful ways.”
The government’s deportation efforts were certainly firm.
Whether they were “sensible” or “thoughtful” remains an open question.
During the past two years, Obama officials have repeatedly said its law enforcement efforts would target immigrants with serious criminal convictions. After the 2010 totals were released, a DHS spokesperson stated the deportation numbers reflect a focus on removing criminal illegal immigrants “who pose a national security or public safety threat.”
A close review of the statistics reveals a different story.
Of those deported in 2010, the government noted 195,772 had been convicted of a crime.
Added the government, this total included over 1,000 murderers and nearly 6,000 sex-offenders. This equals less than 4% of the total criminals picked up and removed by immigration agents in 2010.
The vast majority of criminal deportees had been guilty of drug offenses, drunk driving, or other non-violent crimes. In a striking omission, the DHS report did not address how many of the criminal immigrants deported were guilty of misdemeanor offenses vis-a-vis felony convictions.
In addition, as a deportation defense attorney, I’m concerned that 200,000 of the deported immigrants were not criminal offenders. This means over 50% of those deported were not immigrants posing a national security or public safety threat.
Like my Temecula client who did not have his seat belt fastened.
All-in-all, the government’s deportation efforts were not limited to serious immigrant felons.
Political Grandstand For Election Purposes?
Just last week, Colorado Senator Robert Menendez introduced a new comprehensive immigration reform bill. This took place on the back of the Senate’s rejection of the DREAM Act.
As I have continuously noted, the Obama mid-term election game plan is based on a two-part blueprint.
First, blame the Republicans for the lack of progress on immigration issues. This maintains the support of voters from immigrant communities.
Second, do not actively push pro-immigrant measures. This avoid alienating voters opposed to immigration reform.
I was surprised by the release of the deportation statistics, which usually takes several months to compile, just a few days after the end of the 2010 fiscal year.
The political purpose seems obvious.
Now, the administration can use the deportation numbers to emphasize their toughness on immigration. By claiming such law and order credentials, Democrats can woo conservative voters in the final month before elections.
When President Obama entered the White House, he promised to push a “comprehensive immigration reform” bill in his first year. Almost two years later, the hopes of immigrants and their families remain unfulfilled.
From my vantage point as an Moreno Valley immigration attorney, fighting to protect clients living in various parts of Riverside County like Hemet, Temecula, and Murrieta, I doubt the next two years will be much different.
This means, sadly, more frequent visits to Lancaster and other immigrant detention centers throughout Southern California.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, and Politics