In response to mounting political pressure to address the crisis in U.S-Mexico border detention centers, the Obama Administration is putting plans into action to speed up deportations—a move critics slam as a "step backwards for immigration policy."
Efforts to achieve the faster deportations include accelerating immigration trials and opening additional detention centers, as well as increasing the use of tracking devices such as ankle bracelets to keep track of immigrants after they are released and awaiting trials for deportation, The New York Times reports.
"It's a real step backwards for immigration policy," Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which advocates for alternatives to detention, told the Huffington Post. "Detention should always be used as a last option ... the harm that comes from children from being detained is well-documented, and if we don't have to do this, we shouldn't be doing it."
The humanitarian crisis at the border has once again stirred up anti-immigrant sentiment at many levels. The union representing more than 16,000 border patrol agents wrote on its Twitter feed last weekend complaining of "Babysitting, Diaper Changing, Burrito Wrapping," although the tweet was removed after immigration advocates called it racist. An op-ed in the Guardian on Friday noted the role the Associated Press has played in dehumanizing the debate around the crisis by referring to the children as "detainees" rather than just children.
Yet public opinion is behind a long-term solution to immigration. A survey that came out June 12, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, found that 62 percent of Americans favor giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, while just 19 percent favor a policy of deportation.
Before the planned increase in deportations was reported, President Obama had called President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico on Thursday to discuss the best ways to "work in close cooperation with Mexico to develop concrete proposals to address the root causes of unlawful migration from Central America," according to a White House statement.
The likelihood of the White House actually targeting the "root causes" of immigration is highly improbable from the point of view of staunch critics of how the U.S. consistently tackles immigration problems. Founder and former president of the Economic Policy Institute Jeff Faux, told the Real News Network that "lost in this debate is the question of U.S. responsibility for the basic causes of this tragic immigration to the United States. Immigration politics in the U.S. focuses on the U.S., but the question of what to do with people who are arriving here misses the point of how they arrived and why they arrived. In this case 95 percent of the children are coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador."
The reporting by the Times came on World Refugee Day, which the president commemorated by saying that the United States "was built by people who fled oppression and war" and that “the refugees who arrive in the United States today continue this tradition, bringing fresh dreams and energy and renewing the qualities that help forge our national identity and make our country strong.”