With the Congressional budgetary battle and debt ceiling debacle of 2011, one issue that been put on the back burner in Congress is the illegal immigration. That of course doesn't mean the Obama administration forgot about it. In fact, his administration is nearing its one millionth deportation.
Adam Serwer at Mother Jones dug around the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's website and found that 982,548 illegal immigrants have been deported since Obama took office between January 2009 and July 2011. So it's possible that Obama has already hit 1 million deportations since the end of July, although in August his administration announced a review of 300,000 cases of "low-priority" illegal immigrants. During the 28 months prior to that period, while George W. Bush was in office, there were approximately 200,000 fewer illegals booted from our borders, meaning that deportation has been revved up under the Obama administration. That surprises some of the president's liberal supporters, while Republicans have stuck their heads in the sand, according to Serwer:
How you react to Obama's record on deportation depends where you are on the political spectrum. The GOP has been accusing the administration for months of instituting "de-facto amnesty" even as deportation numbers skyrocketed, while liberals and the Spanish-language press have been attacking the administration for breaking its promises.
For the record, here's what presidential candidate Barack Obama had to say about illegal immigrants in 2007, during a New Hampshire primary debate:
We want to have a situation in which those who are already here, are playing by the rules, are willing to pay a fine and go through a rigorous process should have a pathway to legalization. Most Americans will support that if they have some sense that the border is also being secured. What they don’t want is a situation in which there is a pathway to legalization and you’ve got another several hundred thousand of folks coming in every year. That is a central position we should be able to arrive at.
Basically, he gave himself a lot of wiggle room with regard to how his administration approached illegal immigration. So perhaps he didn't so much break a promise as never make one at all. According to an October 28, 2008 New York Times article, Obama "hardened his tone on how to deal with illegal immigrants" over the course of the campaign, "responding to the anger many Americans feel about uncontrolled illegal immigration." By that point in the campaign, the issue had fallen by the wayside; immigration wasn't mentioned once during the three Obama-McCain debates, according to The Times.
In any case, while hardening his immigration policy may have boosted his poll numbers, implementing it in 2011 may be hurting them. As Serwer pointed out, the president's approval rating among Hispanics has taken a downward turn this year.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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