The Department of Homeland Security missed its alleged deportation quota, but the Obama administration still made history this fiscal year when it deported 393,000 people. The administration broke its own fiscal year 2009 record.
“It has been another record-breaking year at ICE—one that has seen ICE enforce the law at record levels, and in sensible, firm and thoughtful ways,” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano bragged.
But as Seth Wessler and Brian Palmer report in this weeks’ ColorLines investigation, nothing about the deportation system is “sensible” or “thoughtful.” It’s built on the devolution of immigration-enforcement power to unaccountable local cops, an overburdened judicial system that has lost all ability to judge, and zero-tolerance rules that ensnare all non-citizens, regardless of immigration status. Indiscriminate and out-of-control are more apt adjectives.
The administration announced the final tally this week (news reports offered an older, slightly lower number) for deportations during the fiscal year ending on September 30. The Obama administration has repeatedly said it would focus its deportation efforts on immigrants with criminal convictions. And in fact, 195,772 of those who were deported had been convicted of a crime. This marks an increase of 81,000 criminal deportations from President George W. Bush’s last year in office.
But the vast majority of those people had been found guilty of drug offenses and drunk driving, or other non-violent crimes. More than 1,000 of those deported this year had been convicted of murder, and almost 6,000 were convicted of sex offenses.
The numbers arrive against a backdrop of several other immigration patterns: immigration into the country is down and military spending at the border is on the rise, and yet migrant deaths along the border are also breaking records. More than 250 people have been found dead trying to cross into the country so far this year.
The news also comes with midterm elections just weeks away and immigration reform a hot potato Congress was too skittish to touch this year. The Obama administration has been pushing contradictory political messages. To Latinos disillusioned by two years of empty promises on comprehensive immigration reform, Napolitano has said: “Your voice is your vote, man.” To the rest of the country, the administration has tried to tout its harsh stance on immigration, which begins with local programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities, moves to the militarization of the border, and wraps with news of record-breaking deportations.
All the while, Obama has blamed the logjammed Congress for not delivering reform, and said that ending deportations is not something he’s willing to do on his own.