After rising to record levels under the Barack Obama administration, deportations will likely drop for the first time in a decade this year, Bloomberg reports.
The decreasing figure, which Bloomberg says is on track to fall by more than 10 percent to a six-year low, resulted from shifting deportation policies adopted by Obama in the face of pressure from activists and Latino leaders frustrated with congressional inaction on immigration reform.
The figure marks a turnaround for the president that holds the record for deportations, with nearly 2 million people removed from the country since taking office -- more than double the figure for his predecessor, George W. Bush.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement to defer deportation for most undocumented immigrants brought here illegally as children for a renewable, two-year period. The change followed a memo issued by ICE Director John Morton encouraging immigration authorities to use prosecutorial discretion to focus on deporting serious criminals and repeat offenders.
But deportations remain high by a historical standard. Bloomberg cited a figure of 343,020 from Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 7, 2013, with three weeks of the fiscal year yet to be tallied. That puts 2013’s number on par with the 2008 figure of 369,221, the last year of the Bush administration.
The incomplete tally of deportations after five years under Obama stands at 1,932,471, about 80,000 short of the number of people deported during the eight years of Bush’s presidency.
Obama has been a vocal supporter of the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, but those efforts stalled in Congress amid opposition from House Republicans.
The president’s deportation record has undermined his image among immigration activists and many Latino community leaders, who have adopted increasingly brazen tactics to call attention to the administration’s enforcement policies. Some activists have impeded ICE buses and blocked the entrances to detention centers, while others have staged protests in which people who lived part of their lives as undocumented immigrants crossed into the United States through legal ports of entry.
Even politically active actress Eva Longoria, a prominent campaigner for Obama, has criticized the president’s record on deportations. "It is saddening to see those numbers," Longoria told HuffPost Live's Ahmed Shihab-Eldin this month. "They are at an all time high. I think the Secure Communities program has proven to be not as effective at zeroing in on the 'bad guys,' if you will."
Liberal members of Congress, including U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have echoed the sentiment, asking Obama to act unilaterally to slow the pace of deportations of those who would benefit from immigration reform.
Some local officials have also pushed back against the expanding scope of federal immigration enforcement. In October, the California state legislature passed the Trust Act, legislation that reduces the state’s cooperation in the fingerprint-sharing program known as Secure Communities. The program’s opponents say Secure Communities leads to the indiscriminate deportation of otherwise law-abiding people and makes immigrant communities distrust the police.
New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have all attempted to opt out of the program or passed laws limiting cooperation with it.