After four years without comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) within the United States, President Barack Obama turned the focus of his second term to salvaging his previously unkept promise to change immigration policy. The Obama administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any other presidential administration. In fact, during the George W. Bush eight-year administration, deportations of illegal immigrants were recorded at 43,000 in the last 5 years of his term, whereas Obama had deported at least 193,000 in his first 5 years.
Despite President Obama’s efforts to deport more illegal immigrants who have a felony criminal record, the majority of the deportees continue to be Mexican men of ages 35 or younger with minor traffic violations. Under his administration, approximately two-thirds of virtually two million deported immigrants have been charged with traffic violations such as speeding tickets. Only 20% of the deported were convicted of serious crimes. A recorded 188,000 removal proceedings have been against immigrants who entered or reentered the U.S. illegally.
Some feel that the deportation process forcing immigrants to return to their country is punishment enough. However, statistics show that in 2013, 90% of the deportation cases were filed against immigrants with no criminal record and the immigrants were subsequently charged. These charges forbid them from entering the United States for at least 5 years, with a possible prison term if they attempt to illegally enter again. In contrast, during the Bush administration, one-quarter of the immigrants who were deported, were never charged.
Administration officials have stated that while Obama publicly appears to be an advocate for immigrants in order to contain his supporters, he also attempts to gain the trust of his opposition through the deportation of illegal immigrants. David Martin, deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), claims that part of the issue is raised from the lack of defined enforcement goals at the entrance of Obama’s presidency. The president has been focused on satisfying both parties, which Martin believes to be unrealistic. Critics of the Obama administration have found his claims on the deportation of primarily criminal aliens to be hypocritical, as some have been deported for simply driving without a license.
Today immigration officials have set an annual goal to deport approximately 400,000 illegal immigrants. Obama believes that in order to create a CIR that Congress will approve, strict and consistent enforcement is vital. Part of this belief arises due to the lack of border security that was first attempted during the Bush Jr. administration at which time Congress had refused to approve a CIR without secure borders. “The administration has carried out a dramatic nullification of federal law,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. “Under the guise of setting ‘priorities’, the administration has determined that almost anyone in the world who can enter the United States is free to illegally live, work and claim benefits here as long as they are not caught committing a felony or other serious crime.” Yet, nowadays a traffic violation could be the difference between uniting immigrant families, and destroying them.