Blog Archive

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Napolitano: U.S. will set record for deportations

Homeland Security chief says approach prioritizes ‘finite resources’
By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times
Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that the government is poised to set another record for deportations in just-ended fiscal 2011, citing the numbers as proof that the administration is not pursuing a backdoor amnesty for illegal immigrants that critics charge.

“We cannot, on the one hand, be on the verge of removing, for the third consecutive year, a record-breaking number of unlawful individuals from this country, with the highest number of criminal removals in American history, and, at the same time, be abrogating our law enforcement responsibilities,” Ms. Napolitano said in a speech at American University, billed as a “reality check” on the state of immigration enforcement in the Obama administration.

President Obama has come under fire from both sides of the immigration debate: Hispanic advocates say he’s deporting too many people, while those who favor a crackdown say he unilaterally is imposing an amnesty.

Ms. Napolitano said both charges cannot be true, and said she has tried to chart a middle path that calls for focusing deportation efforts on those who have long criminal records that stretch beyond immigration violations.

The Obama administration has granted immigration authorities great latitude to halt deportation cases against broad swaths of illegal immigrants who meet criteria such as studying here illegally or having family members who depend on them for support.

Critics say that amounts to amnesty, but Ms. Napolitano said it is a prioritization of resources.

“It makes sense to prioritize our finite resources on removing a Mexican citizen who is wanted for murder in his home country ahead of a Mexican national who is the sole provider for his American citizen spouse,” she said.

She said she has “grown weary” of charges that the border is not secure, and she said that charge is a disservice to the immigration authorities in her department who enforce it.

Critics, though, point to measures that suggest the administration is leaving some tools unused.

Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, who is House Judiciary Committee chairman, said the Obama administration has severely curtailed raids on work sites to net illegal immigrants. And he pointed to statistics that showed only 44 percent of the Southwest border is considered under “operational control.”

“If we are going to have smart and effective immigration enforcement, we need to enforce all of our immigration laws and turn off the jobs magnet that encourages illegal immigration,” he said.

While there is near-universal agreement on the need for tighter border enforcement, a thornier issue emerges on enforcing the laws inside the interior of the country, where about 10 million illegal immigrants live, and many work.

Many in Mr. Obama’s political base want less enforcement targeting those living here already, and they cite the record deportation levels as evidence this administration is moving in the wrong direction.

Facing that charge, Mr. Obama last week in a round table with Hispanic reporters said the deportation numbers were artificially high because they include those caught at the border, thanks to enhanced enforcement.

“The statistics are actually a little deceptive because what we’ve been doing is, with the stronger border enforcement, we’ve been apprehending folks at the borders and sending them back. That is counted as a deportation, even though they may have only been held for a day or 48 hours, sent back, that’s counted as a deportation,” he said.

But the numbers show the number of people returned after being apprehended on the border is down substantially, while deportations of those caught in the interior has risen.

The ratio of those sent back with criminal convictions, however, has indeed risen significantly, from about a third of deportees at the beginning of the administration to about half in fiscal 2010. And more than two-thirds of the ones without criminal convictions were either recent border crossers or repeat immigration violators, Ms. Napolitano said.