Monday, December 6, 2010

Obama cooking the books on deportations

For much of this year, the Obama administration touted its tougher-than-ever approach to immigration enforcement, culminating in a record number of deportations.

But in reaching 392,862 deportations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement included more than 19,000 immigrants who exited the previous fiscal year, according to agency statistics. ICE also ran a Mexican repatriation program five weeks longer than ever before, allowing the agency to count at least 6,500 exits that, without the program, would normally have been tallied by the U.S. Border Patrol.

When ICE officials realized in the final weeks of the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, that the agency still was in jeopardy of falling short of last year's mark, it scrambled to reach the goal. Officials quietly directed immigration officers to bypass backlogged immigration courts and time-consuming deportation hearings whenever possible, internal e-mails and interviews show.

Instead, officials told immigration officers to encourage eligible foreign nationals to accept a quick pass to their countries without a negative mark on their immigration record, ICE employees said.

The option, known as voluntary return, may have allowed hundreds of immigrants, who typically would have gone before an immigration judge to contest deportation for offenses such as drunken driving, domestic violence and misdemeanor assault, to leave the country. A voluntary return doesn't bar a foreigner from applying for legal residence or traveling to the United States in the future.

Once the agency closed the books for the 2010 fiscal year and the record was broken, agents say they were told to stop widely offering the voluntary return option and revert to business as usual.

Without these efforts and the more than 25,000 deportations that came with them, the agency would not have topped last year's record level of 389,834, current and former ICE employees and officials said.

The Obama administration was intent on doing so even as it came under attack by some Republicans for not being tough enough on immigration enforcement and by some Democrats for failing to deliver on promises of comprehensive immigration reform.

"It's not unusual for any administration to get the numbers they need by reaching into their bag of tricks to boost figures," said Neil Clark, who retired as the Seattle field office director in late June, adding that in the 12 years he spent in management he saw the Bush and Clinton administrations do similar things.


Colorado Wants Arizona Style Immigration Reform

Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, one of a small handful of Democratic Hispanics in the Legislature, said she’s waiting to see how things shake out before committing to supporting or opposing the legislation. But she said she believes the federal government should be handling immigration policy. If the state does pass a law, she thinks it should focus on making it difficult for businesses to hire undocumented workers.

Colorado held a special session on immigration in 2006 under a Republican governor and a Democratic Legislature. Compromise included barring illegal immigrants’ use of some state services, requiring law enforcement officials to report those they believe to be in the country illegally, and creating a state patrol unit to enforce immigration law and combat human smuggling.

They included a measure requiring employers to prove they don’t hire illegals to qualify for state economic development grants and other incentives. Another denied state business and professional licenses to illegals, and a third required political subdivisions to verify that anyone over 18 who applies for public benefits is in the country legally. Cities were prohibited from enacting policies that stop cooperation with immigration officials.

Some Republicans like Senator-elect Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs) want to see a law passed here patterned after Arizona’s new immigration law requiring police to check people’s immigration status. He says there are too many instances of Colorado employers hiring illegal immigrants because they know they’ll work for cheaper.

The Arizona law, which was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer earlier this year, has received national attention. The law requires officials to inquire on an individual’s immigration status if they have reasonable suspicion. It also bans illegal immigrants from soliciting work in public places and allows for warrantless arrests when people commit crimes that can result in their deportation.

As sources have explained to the Colorado Independent, E-Verify only detects on average half the people it should detect as undocumented. Worse, it doesn’t nab people looking to dodge it. Those people steal identities; they get false ID numbers that work. Indeed, some say E-Verify creates a whole new level of business in identity theft. The other thing it does, often, is misidentify as undocumented people who are documented or in the legal process of getting documented.


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