Is Obama the ‘Deporter-in-Chief’? We Do the Math

Joshua Rosenblat July 24, 2014

President Obama has long been criticized for his administration's deportation record, and it's unclear how he will handle the tide of Central American children crossing the border. Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo / Flickr / Creative Commons

Immi­gra­tion has been labeled Amer­i­ca’s most recent cri­sis.” As thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­can chil­dren cross the bor­der with­out papers, the Left has assert­ed that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma expels far too many undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants and the Right has com­plained that he does­n’t turn enough away. The accu­sa­tions from both sides of the aisle have cloud­ed pub­lic per­cep­tions of the admin­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies, tak­ing atten­tion away from what’s actu­al­ly going on.
So, what’s actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing in Wash­ing­ton? In ear­ly July, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma sent Con­gress a pro­pos­al for $3.7 bil­lion to help curb the bor­der cri­sis. The funds will go to a num­ber of agen­cies, some with a focus on human­i­tar­i­an relief ($1.8 bil­lion is allo­cat­ed to the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices) and some on enforce­ment ($1.1 bil­lion will go to Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment).The White House­’s plea to Con­gress is by no means per­fect, but it does improve some con­di­tions for fam­i­lies and minors who have been caught at the bor­der. To no one’s sur­prise, how­ev­er, the Repub­li­can-led House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives oppos­es it.In response to Oba­ma’s bill, Sen. John Cornyn (R‑TX) and Rep. Hen­ry Cuel­lar (D‑TX) are propos­ing a bill that would essen­tial­ly make it eas­i­er to deport unac­com­pa­nied Cen­tral Amer­i­can chil­dren. Basi­cal­ly, the bill would ensure that minors will have a hear­ing in immi­gra­tion court with­in the first sev­en days of being appre­hend­ed, to deter­mine whether they have a legal claim to stay in the Unit­ed States . A deter­mi­na­tion would be made with­in 72 hours of the hear­ing on whether the child is grant­ed asy­lum or imme­di­ate­ly sent home. This pro­pos­al aims to speed up a sys­tem back­logged with cas­es by treat­ing the minors from Cen­tral Amer­i­ca with the same stan­dards a 2008 law set for minors from Mex­i­co and Cana­da.If this bill pass­es, thou­sands of chil­dren will be asked to artic­u­late their sit­u­a­tions and the con­di­tions of their home coun­tries to strange judges. Many will be with­out legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as there are not enough pro bono lawyers to go around.How­ev­er, with their Sen­ate major­i­ty under threat in Novem­ber’s midterm elec­tions, many Democ­rats are run­ning for the mid­dle and back­ing the bill. The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, too, has said it could sup­port the mea­sure.Charles M. Blow may have best summed up the sit­u­a­tion in his July 16 col­umn for the New York Times: This is not the best face of a great nation. This is the under­side of a great stone, which when lift­ed sends creepy things slith­er­ing in all direc­tions. We are bet­ter than this. We are more com­pas­sion­ate than this. We are more hon­or­able than this.
Joshua Rosen­blat is a Sum­mer 2014 In These Times intern.
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