President Obama wants immigration enforcement to be “humane,” but will not slow the tide of mass deportations

As the number of people deported under Obama nears 2 million, the president says he will "review" enforcement

Topics: Immigration, ICE, Obama, deportations, immigrant rights, immigrant families, , ,

President Obama wants immigration enforcement to be "humane," but will not slow the tide of mass deportations (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

President Obama has deported more people than any previous administration, setting a record in deportations in 2009 and then topping that record in 2012. As the number of people deported under Obama nears 2 million, immigrant activists and their allies have amped up resistance efforts: People being held in immigration detention facilities (many privately owned and turning heavy profits) across the country lead hunger strikes while undocumented young people stage mass actions at the United States-Mexico border to draw attention to the separations forced on their families by historic deportations and immigration policies driven by racial profiling.

On Thursday, President Obama announced he has ordered a review of his administration’s enforcement efforts in order to make deportations more “humane,” citing a “deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system.”

As reported by the New York Times, Obama has appointed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to conduct the evaluation, though many immigrant rights activists are dubious that real change will come as a result of the review, particularly since the president has not signaled he intends to slow the tide of deportations that make the administration’s policies so inhumane in the first place.

“Relief delayed is relief denied,” Pablo Alvarado, the director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told the Times. “The president has no excuse to continue his unjust deportation policy.”

While Obama did issue a 2012 order to suspend the deportations of undocumented young people who came to the United States as children, he has done little else to signal that he intends slow or cease deportations. When asked Thursday if his administration would suspend deportations pending the results of the review, officials said no.



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Activists like Janet Murguía of the National Council of La Raza have continued to apply pressure to the administration to stop its aggressive enforcement and promotion of policies that leave “a wake of devastation for families across America,” and some in Congress are echoing their demands for drastic change.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., called on the president to halt deportations. “While we continue waiting for the House of Representatives to wake up and move on immigration reform legislation, I urge the president to take action today and halt needless deportations that are splitting apart our families and communities,” he said.

The message, particularly from activists, is that the consequences of inaction are too high — for families, communities and individuals. Ramon Dorado, who grew up in New Mexico and participated in a mass border crossing this week as an act of civil disobedience, was on the verge of graduating college when he was stopped for a traffic violation and abruptly deported.

His message for the administration: “I want to come home.”

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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