Illegal immigration: Are Obama deportations truly aimed at ‘criminals’?

Immigration attorney Matthew Kolken is openly questioning the forthrightness of the Obama administration these days.

He knows the Obama administration is in a tough spot. Congress is refusing to take up immigration reform, and the president is being squeezed between Republicans who claim he is soft on border crossers and Hispanics who say he has not done enough to resolve the status of longtime illegal immigrants.

Yet it is the administration’s response that has left Mr. Kolken suggesting that the government “is not being truthful.” Immigration officials say they are cutting a “common sense” middle path — ramping up deportations of criminal illegal immigrants but also granting prosecutors discretion to have compassion on law-abiding illegal workers who have close ties to the United States.

Statistics from an independent clearinghouse for federal data, however, appear to contradict some of the government’s claims. Moreover, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse(TRAC) at Syracuse University in New York says the administration has been hesitant to release details behind a record 400,000 deportations in the past year.

The result has been growing concern among critics on the left and right that the Obama administration is playing politics — holding back data that might upset the Hispanic community, which is seen as crucial to the president’s reelection prospects. Obama officials refute that assertion, but Kolken, for one, is skeptical.

“What I have seen coming out of TRAC, this administration is not being truthful with regards to the data they’re releasing, or at least with regard to the public-relations spin they’re putting on policies,” says Kolken, who works in Buffalo, N.Y. “Every time they say something, TRAC looks at the cold, hard data, and it contradicts the press releases. It’s a repeating pattern.”

So far, the Obama administration has been bold and specific in its assertions. The Department of Homeland Security “has implemented immigration enforcement priorities that focus limited resources on convicted criminals, repeat immigration law violators, fugitives, and recent entrants,” DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said in an e-mail.

As a result, Immi­gra­tion and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed a record 216,000 criminal illegal immigrants in fiscal year 2011 — “an 89 percent increase over 2008,” Mr. Chandler added.

In May, President Obama told an audience in El PasoTexas, that the focus was on “violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income.”

The problem is that immigration court statistics obtained by TRAC show that actual criminal deportation proceedings have dropped below Bush administration levels. So how are deportations of criminal aliens up 89 percent over 2008?

That’s the unresolved question.

While DHS says it’s counting deportations of people with past criminal convictions, TRAC can’t get access to detailed case data that would show whether deportees really are serious criminals or people with minor infractions that in the past may not have led to a deportation order. In other words, without more transparency, it’s not clear whether the Obama administration is bolstering its claim of focusing on “the worst of the worst” by including in its data the very immigrants whom the White House insists it’s not targeting.

“There are really an enormous amount of questions about what is actually going on, and it’s very discouraging when law enforcement agencies, despite all the talk about transparency, are not providing data that they are collecting — data that ­everybody really needs to have to decide the very, very complicated policy issues that the country is facing,” says Susan Long, director of TRAC, which tracks federal data through the Freedom of Information Act.

A DHS spokesman replied that agency officials spoke with TRAC on Nov. 11 about how to resolve how ICE tracks statistics. He also noted that the sheer volume of information requests may mean response delays, but to assume that those delays constitute a lack of transparency is “simply inaccurate.”

While the criminal-alien data remain in question, however, there is a more solid verdict on what impact prosecutorial discretion has had on deportations.

ICE Director John Morton announced the policy shift in June, and the administration on Nov. 17 also began a training program to show immigration agents how to block deportation cases against some noncriminal illegal immigrants.

But so far, it may not have protected many of those “just looking to scrape together an income.”

“The overwhelming conclusion is that most ICE offices have not changed their practices since the issuance of these new directives,” states a November study of 252 immigration cases by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

That’s due, in large part, to the culture of ICE, experts say. The ICE union has attacked the prosecutorial discretion policy, saying it undermines the focus on law and order.

Taking on ICE could boost Mr. Obama’s 2012 prospects among Hispanics, says Allert Brown-Gort, director of the Institute of Latino Studies at Notre Dame University in Indiana. “Though he didn’t pull out immigration reform … serious prosecutorial discretion is the next best thing he can do,” he says.

In the meantime, detailed immigration data could be damaging. The Obama administration “is basically letting ambiguity be its friend,” says Professor Brown-Gort. “One of the reasons why the administration is being less than forthcoming is because they’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Dave Francis on 12/03/2011 - 05:34 pm.

    This is why we must succeed in passing the ‘Legal Workforce Act’ or known to Americans as Mandatory E-Verify law. Obama’s presidential orders have been creeping in, which are not following the law and even allowing illegal aliens to remain here. E-Verify will produce the opposite effect, which unlawful aliens will begin to leave as jobs will become less available. Right now E-Verify is just voluntary program, but with a growing number of sponsoring policy makers joining Lamar Smith’s H.R. H.R.2885, the chances are ‘The Legal Workforce Act’ could reach the house floor for that bill to pass. E-Verify and its passage to Congress is well documented on NumbersUSA internet site and information about the negative side if it doesn’t reach the house floor. Already out of the required 100 needed co-sponsors, only 33 are needed to compliment the law. It’s the Public assistance and taxpayer voters, who are contacting their Representatives in the House and Senate, determined not to be ushered to the side and demanding the E-Verify law. Thousands are calling 202-224-3121 to be directed to their federal and state political members and having a nationwide impact.

    Michelle Bachmann, a strong advocate for the ‘Rule of Law’ and a TEA PARTY Republican will not be tempted, with the accustomed corruption exhibited within the Halls of Congress. The Tea Party and businessman Herman Cain will remain adamant in opposition to any job or economy killing immigration reform; if Cain lasts the dirty tricks of the other side? Bachmann, Perry have launched their own attacks against former speaker Newt Gingrich who as proposed a similar law to Assemblyman Fuentes in California, with the tirade of paying fines, prior taxes and having no criminal history.

    Last September debate Perry got pounded for his support for a Texas version of the Dream Act that the TEA PARTY is a strong opponent. Mitt Romney is now echoing Former Congressman Tom Tancredo’s who has a huge following and where “amnesty” is a watchword for taxpayers. Tancredo criticizes his rivals, particularly New York Gov. Giuliani for his low key support of a Sanctuary City policy and Huckabee, for both being soft on immigration. Anyone who is to reside in the ‘Oval Office’ must strengthen our immigration laws for American taxpayer first; not pandering to foreign nationals, undocumented immigrants, unauthorized aliens—but none-sanitized, or complicated by the ‘Politically Correctness’ term as they really are—illegal aliens. But most Prez candidates support constructing the fence, and Rick Santorum astonished me when he mentioned Prior President Bush’s ‘Secure Fence Act’ of 2006. Last September Santorum has stated he opposes benefits for illegal aliens, comprehensive immigration reform, and supports a border fence and making English the national language.

    Although Santotum has hinted in providing some method for “dealing with” individuals who are already squatting in this country? Senator Santorum also expressed his resistance to any plans to grant social security (a Bush proposal never ratified as yet?) and other discretionary expenditures to illegal aliens who are living in the United States. Every one of the candidates have their ‘Point of view’ which is a powder-keg issue’ that is going to be a strong ticket arising in the presidential elections and stand its ground with both jobs and the economy—as all are major troubles that co-exist together. The bottom line without enforcing immigration laws is the unparalleled encouragement of more illegal aliens coming here without any substantial benefits to an American public other than stealing jobs in all low classes of occupations.

    If there is to be a ‘Guest Workers’ program it must be strictly adhered to, with a tracking system of locating absconders’ and able to trace and deport. Whatever the Liberal media says, the TEA PARTY is expanding and growing in extensive numbers and see illegal immigration as a financial liability, but not so with new legal immigrants. The Tea Party would accept I believe a ‘Points System’ like European countries, with the advantage of bringing in the brains from other countries. These would be acclaimed professionals in engineering, science and other future industries that would be perceived as being not relying on the welfare or public assistance from taxpayers.

  2. Submitted by Dave Francis on 12/03/2011 - 05:36 pm.

    California—the Sanctuary state, that is suffering terribly from the millions of foreign nationals that have illegally settled there. As if they don’t have enough problems with a senile old Democrat (Liberal) Governor Jerry Brown and a wilting state treasury deficit of $22 billion dollars, the good legal population must now suffer under Democrat Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, is helping to lead a measure, called the ‘California Opportunity and Prosperity Act.’ It would allow if passed 1 million illegal aliens or more to reside and work openly in the state with little fear of deportation under an initiative unveiled Friday by a state legislator and others.

    Fuentes explained this measure as a “moderate, common-sense approach” necessitated by the federal government’s inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

    America has already seen the devastation of what cheap labor has done to the working class, the blue collar jobs, the low income US workers, since the outcome of the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill. Millions more of American workers are without jobs, because of no enforcement at the business level before President Obama—whose great enforcement work has dropped off, mainly because of the ‘usual suspects’ in the corporate world, special interests and penetrated by radical ethic majorities. As the Liberal press holds back the truth, the illegal alien workforce is still stealing jobs, committing heinous crimes and perhaps the abhorrent bloody mayhem on the highways of this country.

    Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican, exploded against the proposal as a s a way to undermine the central governments immigration policies. He envisaged it wouldn’t have a “snowball’s chance in hell” of winning voter endorsement. Donnelly added, “There’s a proper process for coming to this country,” saying of illegal nationals “Why you don’t respect that?”

    Supposedly the proposal would outline the following criteria that the person had settled in California for four years, have no criminal convictions; not being a terrorist, and as most pro-illegal migrant and immigrant politicians who have sided with the Liberal progressive and extremist philosophy of ever increasing government, more taxes to pay for welfare support for the 20 million plus, who arrived by plane and stayed, jumped ship or slipped past the U.S. Border Patrol; and at least another half-million enter this country each year.

    Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah, Indiana are all weighted down with the foreign nationals that have arrived there, but have facilitated their own laws in reduce the numbers and the unfunded mandates of education, health care and a crowded prison system.

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