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Immigration Reform Must Begin With Moratorium on Deportations and Recognition of Shattered Families

As President Obama unveiled his immigration reform plan in Las Vegas yesterday, admonishing the U.S. Congress to not get "bogged down" in endless debate, the shackled Operation Streamline shuffle of undocumented immigrants caught up in our federal immigrant enforcement system continued in full force.

If extrapolations from last year's record deportations give any indication of the Obama administration's operations, over 1,100 undocumented immigrants were deported on Tuesday -- that's approximately 45 people as the president spoke.

This includes mothers, fathers, and shattered families.

According to the Department of Homeland Security's own assessment, nearly 40 percent of these so-called criminal deportations will be related to immigration offenses and traffic violations.

While the president's plan included measures to streamline legal immigration and "keep families together," the truth is that the record number of families broken by our flawed immigrant enforcement policy still remains in the shadows of the immigration reform debate.

As Pablo Alvarado of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network noted Monday:

To be productive, the threat of deportation needs to be taken off the table immediately, by Congress or by the president. Until deportations stop, President Obama and Congress will be in the impossible position of deporting the very people they are ostensibly trying to bring into citizenship.

Beyond the "enforcement-first" rhetoric, as net migration from Mexico has come to a standstill, immigration reform must begin with a moratorium on deportations, and a recognition by the Obama administration and Congress of their role in tearing apart families.

According to a groundbreaking study by the Applied Research Center last year, "In the first six months of 2011, the federal government removed more than 46,000 mothers and fathers of U.S.-citizen children. These deportations shatter families and endanger the children left behind."

At least 5,000 children of deported immigrants will languish tonight in foster homes.

"We cannot keep talking about immigrants as criminals," the National Immigrant Youth Alliance said in a statement.

The President and the Senate have placed themselves in the irreconcilable position of trying to both criminalize immigrants and argue for a pathway to citizenship. The only way that immigration reform can be accomplished is if the president chooses to stop treating immigrants as criminals.

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