The Obama administration has slowed its rate of deportation for the first time in 10 years after it spiked to record levels in 2012.
Bloomberg reported that deportations are “on track” to drop by 10 percent to a six-year low. Only 343,020 undocumented residents were forced to leave the country in the last fiscal year, after deportations reached an all-time high of 409,900 the previous year.
The drop in forced departures is a result of new policy, which according to ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez will narrow the focus to “public safety, national security and border security.”
“ICE has been vocal about the shift in our immigration-enforcement strategy,” Gonzalez said. “Our removal numbers illustrate this.”
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According to Politico, immigration reform advocacy groups reported that 1,100 people a day are deported, on average.
While President Obama has pledged to enact immigration reform, efforts have stalled in Congress. Meanwhile, the administration is just 80,000 people shy of deporting as many people in its five years as the Bush administration deported in eight.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked the Obama administration to curtail deportations in an interview with Telemundo’s “Enfoque” last weekend.
“Our view of the law is, if somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not reason for deportation,” Pelosi said. “If someone has broken the law or committed a felony or something, that is a different story.”
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Pelosi’s district in San Francisco is home to a prominent immigrant community. Pelosi said she did not agree with the way immigration authorities deal with undocumented residents.
“When most people are apprehended, they are deported,” she said. “I don’t see any reason for these deportations.”
California, as well as New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, has passed legislation to opt out of or limit the Secure Communities program, which compels states to share fingerprints with the federal government for the purpose of tracking down illegal immigrants, according to the Huffington Post.
Despite halting progress to reform immigration policy, Bloomberg reported that lowering the number of deportations doesn’t mean that those would-be deportees are able to live freely in the United States. In fact, it could very well up the number of people behind bars.
A Senate-approved immigration bill from this year that provides a path to citizenship for undocumented workers would “increase the prison population by about 14,000 inmates annually by 2018,” according to a congressional cost estimate.
Government contractors responsible for detaining immigrants as they await hearings will reap the benefits as business grows.
“You think about immigration reform and you intuitively think that means less people prosecuted for immigration offenses, but it seems like it will be just the opposite,” said Kevin Campbell, who works for a financial services company tracking private prisons.