Immigrant rights activists are stepping up their campaign against the Obama administration following a New York Times report published Monday that revealed that the record number of people who have been deported since Obama took office have not been "criminals," but mostly law-abiding immigrants. This reality, the article charges, is due to the White House's desire to appear tough on immigration laws in an effort to appease Republican opponents.
As the New York Times highlights, contrary to the administration's claims that its "Secure Communities" deportation program is focused on “criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community," a stunning two-thirds of the two million deportation cases since Obama took office have in reality involved people who were guilty of only "minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all."
The information, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals that in an effort to get Republican lawmakers to play ball on immigration reform, the administration has tried to show it "can be trusted to enact wider immigration reform," as the Guardian notes. This effort has failed in the sense that the GOP has only moved further to the right on immigration reform despite Obama's advances, the New York Times reports.
"Interviews with current and former administration officials, as well as immigrant advocates, portray a president trying to keep his supporters in line even as he sought to show political opponents that he would be tough on people who had broken the law by entering the country illegally," the New York Times reports.
“For years, the Obama administration’s spin has been that they are simply deporting so-called ‘criminal aliens,’ but the numbers speak for themselves,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “In truth, this administration — more than any other — has devastated immigrant communities across the country, tearing families away from loved ones, simply because they drove without a license, or re-entered the country desperately trying to be reunited with their family members.”
“The irony is that this was [the] tactic that Obama and his administration used to show they were tough on immigration and enforcement but somewhere along the line they seem to have lost track of the very reason why they moved so aggressively,” Kica Matos, director of immigrant rights at the Center for Community Change, told the Guardian. "They focused only on enforcement and did not devote anywhere near the same amount of energy to advancing comprehensive immigration reform legislation as they did to, say, healthcare reform.”
“We assumed that a Democratic president who wanted to move immigration reform would not pursue a strategy of deporting the people who he was intent on legalizing,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change. “That was a totally wrong assumption. And there is a lot of anger about that.”
“You can bet your bottom dollar that we are well on the way to escalating [our protest campaign],” Matos added. “Last year we included civil disobedience. The biggest difference this year is that our protests are targeted more and more at the Obama administration.”
And that change of pace could be seen visibly on Saturday, when immigration activists rallied in more than 40 U.S. cities across the country, including a rally in front of the White House, in a day of action calling for President Obama to put an end to deportations.
"We've seen many of our families torn apart and his words are not enough anymore. We need to see actions," said Nayley Perez-Huerta, who organized Raleigh's march, urging the president to take executive action on immigration reform.