Janet Murguia, the National Council of La Raza’s chief executive officer, recently made an explosive charge against President Barack Obama. Murguia called the president the “deporter- in-chief,” a reference to what many Hispanic lobbying organizations allege is Obama’s record number of deportations.
Obama, in his own defense, responded by saying: “I’m the champion-in-chief” of immigration reform.
Then, the president blamed congressional inaction for forcing him to unconstitutionally use prosecutorial discretion to not deport certain categories of aliens like childhood arrivals, parents of minor children and family members of military personnel, breaches that no other president has dared to implement.
The so-called record deportation levels is a rallying cry that amnesty advocates have taken up to motivate their activists. Murguia erroneously contends that total deportations under the Obama administration is close to 2 million, has forced families to separate and has left behind a “wake of devastation.”
Here’s the truth behind the hype. Since his inauguration, the White House has used creative accounting and selective deportation statistics to bolster the president’s image as an executive dedicated to enforcing Congress’ immigration laws. The claim that Obama has a stronger deportation record than his predecessors is part of a strategy to convince the enforcement-first crowd he’s tough on illegal immigration. If Obama can convince skeptics that he’s accelerating deportations, reluctant legislators might pass an amnesty bill that would more than double current immigration.
Journalists have run with the Obama “record level of deportations” story line even though the most cursory research proves it false. Immigration and Customs Enforcement publishes an annual report that details immigration “removals,” a politically correct word for “deport.”
ICE divides its statistics into total removals and removals from the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection, otherwise known as returns. By subtracting returns from total removals, the remaining total shows how many deportations came from the interior. That figure has declined every year since 2009 from 238,000 to 133,000. Obviously, if an alien is detained at and returned from the border, he never reaches the interior and therefore cannot under any circumstances be described as having been separated from his family.
Adding to the mystery of how the “record deportation” angle got so overblown is that in 2011, Obama admitted to a roundtable group of Hispanic reporters that the ICE statistics, which co-mingle returns with removals, are “deceptive.” Obama: “The statistics are actually a little deceptive because what we’ve been doing is, with the stronger border enforcement, we’ve been apprehending folks at the borders and sending them back. That is counted as a deportation, even though they may have only been held for a day or 48 hours, sent back — that’s counted as a deportation.”
Activists insist that Obama has the power to end all deportations and are pressuring him to do so under the same prosecutorial discretion method that he used to excuse children brought to the U.S. as minors by their alien parents. Two high-ranking Gang of Eight Senate Democrats echo the activists’ demands. At a La Raza awards ceremony, Dick Durbin and Bob Menendez joined with Murguia to demand that deportations cease. This week, Obama ordered DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to “review” the process under which illegal immigrants are deported.
Since 2009, however, deportations from the interior, most American’s definition of the verb “deport,” have been slashed by 40 percent. By allowing those who reach the interior to stay, the administration extends a form of amnesty to aliens who should be deported but are not, a result consistent with the administration’s often stated goals.
— Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns — mostly about immigration and related social issues — since 1987 and is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.