The Obama Administration deported more than 400,000 undocumented immigrants in the 2012 fiscal year, the most in the nation’s history, according to new data published by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The report, published Friday, indicated that a record 1.5 million individuals were deported during the President's first term.
The agency is lauding the roughly 55 percent of 2012 deportees who were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, including drug offenses and driving under the influence, claiming that the figures demonstrate that the shift to reduce the deportations of otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants is working.
However, NPR reports, immigrant advocates "criticized the figures as evidence that Obama's policy changes don't sufficiently protect unintended targets."
"This is nothing to be proud of," Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a leading lawmaker on immigration reform, said in a statement on the deportation statistics.
“We must also realize that among these hundreds of thousands of deportations are parents and breadwinners and heads of American families that are assets to American communities and have committed no crimes.” Gutierrez estimates that some 90,000 people in this category are deported every year.
“We are the one country,” Gutierrez told the Christian Science Monitor in a previous interview, “that orphans children who have parents.”
In addition to the release of the ICE data, the Obama Administration issued an announcement Friday that undocumented immigrants arrested for minor offenses will no longer be targeted for deportation.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the announcement came as an "apparent concession to the increasing number of jurisdictions pushing back against its Secure Communities program." According to their report:
Immigrant advocates as well as some police chiefs and sheriffs have complained that detention orders under the program were being issued indiscriminately, snaring people who were driving without a license or selling tamales on private property.
The detainers instruct local jailers, typically sheriffs, to hold an arrestee for up to 48 hours longer than the person's criminal charge would have allowed, giving immigration authorities more time to take them into custody.
Under the new policy, federal agents may issue detainers only for those convicted or charged with a felony; those with three or more misdemeanor convictions, excluding traffic offenses and other minor crimes; and those whose misdemeanors are more serious, such as offenses involving violence or driving under the influence.
Civil Rights experts believe that the policy change does not go far enough to resolve rampant civil rights abuses.
“Detention and deportation should be the very last resort,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. “We must move away from policies that waste taxpayer money on the detention and deportation of immigrants who pose no threat."
“The detention guidance does not fix the fundamental problem with ICE detainers,” added ACLU attorney Kate Desormeau in a statement published Friday. “Unlike any other area of law enforcement, ICE uses detainers to lock someone up based solely on an individual officer’s suspicion, without having a judge sign off. That flies in the face of our most basic constitutional rights. As a result, ICE detainers have caused serious civil rights abuses, including the illegal detention of U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants based on sloppy investigation or prejudice.”
In November, President Obama's slim victory was due largely in part to overwhelming (nearly 75 percent) Latino support, based on the belief that the Administration would finally take on immigration reform in a fair and equitable way. In his re-election acceptance speech, he stated unequivocally that “fixing the immigration system” would be an immediate concern.