Obama Wants Immigration Enforcement to Be Done ‘More Humanely’

The president orders a review. Is that enough?

By Aura Bogado Mar 14, 2014

President Obama met with Latino lawmakers in Washington on Thursday, where they talked about immigration. Undocumented immigrants, allies and some advocates have long called for a halt to the Obama administration’s record-setting deportations. Now, with legislation unlikely to happen in an election year, an increasing number of high-profile groups as well as politicians are looking for the president to do the same. 

One of the representatives who met with Obama in the Oval Office is Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rubén Hinojosa (D-Tx.), who as recently as three months ago did not sign a letter penned by Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Az.) and signed by 27 other representatives urging Obama to offer relief from deportation for more undocumented immigrants–the way his administration has with youth under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

After meeting with Hinojosa and others, the White House issued a statement reflecting that immigration enforcement will once again be under review.

"The President emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system," reads the statement. "He told the members that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do an inventory of the Department’s current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law."

But some are unsure that the review will create any meaningful change. Pablo Alvarado, who heads the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, whose organization has long been seeking an end to deportations, wants Obama to be more concrete moving forward. "Relief delayed is relief denied." says Alvarado, "The President has no excuse to continue his unjust deportation policy, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus should not delay joining what is now a consensus position that the President can and should suspend deportations, expand deferred action, and end the disgraceful Secure Communities program."

This is not the first time immigration enforcement has been under review by the Obama administration. The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton issued what’s referred to as the Morton Memo in 2011, which should have resulted in far fewer detentions and deportations–but has hardly done that. Morton left ICE last year, and the agency remains without a leader. It’s unclear which director, if any, would implement any proposed changes to immigration enforcement.