Concerns regarding the treatment and deportation of undocumented immigrants under the Obama administration have prompted migrant communities and activists to take action. As plans are underway to deport 2 million people by next month, members of the Latino community, including lawmakers from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have expressed concerns regarding the high rate of detention and deportation during the President’s term in office. They have been urging Obama toward a policy review.
“President Obama has detained more immigrants in jail, prisons and detention facilities than any other President”, stated Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-ill). In response to Obama’s unprecedented rate of deportation, former allies have referred to the President as the “deporter in chief”.
Public campaigns, immigration activist and lawmakers on Capitol Hill seem to be influential in getting Obama to address the issue and rethink his position. Gutierrez, who met with Obama on Thursday, stated that “it is clear that the pleas from the community got through to the President”. On the same day, Mr. Obama announced that he has ordered a review of US deportation practices to ensure that processing procedures are done “more humanely within the confines of the law.”
Under presidential orders, Homeland Security officials are focusing on two policies that will aid in curbing the rate of deportation of undocumented immigrants. However, the White House has rejected proposals pertaining to the expansion of an Obama administration program to allow the parents of young people who entered the country illegally to stay.
Changes put forward for review would help to stop most deportation of foreigners with no criminal convictions except immigration violations. Enforcement efforts would mostly be geared towards individuals with felony convictions, or those who are more threatening to public safety. Considerations are also being made to review detention center contracts to ensure that conditions are up to standard for the confinement of immigrants.
Thousands of people who have entered the country illegally, or have overstayed their visas are deported each year, including parents of children who are U.S. Citizens, and while meeting with members of labor groups, Latino Organizations and faith groups on Friday Obama expressed his “deep concern” for the long lasting effect that deportation has on separated families.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downy) stated, “We’ve gotten the attention that we needed.”
Other immigrant communities such as the Irish Government delegation, led by Enda Kenny, have also been taking steps to ensure suitable immigration reform. The delegation has been lobbying in Washington during the St. Patrick’s Day trip for reforms to benefit 50,000 undocumented Irish living in America.
Speaking at the traditional Shamrock ceremony at the White House as part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration President Obama stated that thousands of Irish Immigrants in the US are being denied opportunities because of the strict immigration laws.
Immigrants are a vital part of the election year voting process, and any shift in policies which might affect their communities will certainly be of consideration to lawmakers, activists and migrants alike.
By Humphrey Bennett
LA Times, The Irish Examiner, The New York Times