Today, the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Bureau released new statistics on how many people are being deported from the United States and who they are. We are virtually at 400,000 (396, 906 to be exact) which is the maximum annual capacity for deportation in our immigration system, according to Administration officials. The following is a statement by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Task Force on Immigration and a leading proponent of immigration reform in the Congress.
Nobody can say with a straight face that President Obama is not enforcing our immigration laws vigorously, but that is still the main talking point of the right wing every day of the week and twice on Sunday's talk shows. The fact that we are deporting so many people, even when illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle, is a symptom of our decades-long neglect in fixing the immigration system and the chaos that has resulted from this neglect.
The percentage of criminals among the deportees has risen during the Obama Administration but let's be clear, we are still deporting a large number of parents, workers, and others who pose no threat to this country and who contribute to our economic well-being as a nation. It is also important to remember that the definition of "criminal" in such reports is a very broad one and not really reflective of what most people would think of when they hear the term criminal.
I am still waiting for the announcement of this past August to really take root within the Department of Homeland Security and to see dramatic decreases in the number of people deported who meet the criteria laid out in ICE Director John Morton's memo. The announcement cannot be merely a pacifier for those of us crying out for justice and compassion. It must actually stop the deportation of those with deep roots in our country like long-term residents, DREAM Act students, military families, and immediate family of U.S. citizens. This is still the goal and the Administration has made a promise and I will continue meeting with immigrant communities and Administration officials to make sure the policy is actually being implemented.
We are deporting hundreds of thousands of people who came to the country to work, raise families, contribute to the economy, and want nothing more than to be allowed to live and work here legally. Setting a record for deportations and incurring the huge expense of sending so many people away is nothing to be proud of as a country. This puts yet another exclamation point on the need for a lasting solution to eliminate illegal immigration and to strengthen legal immigration.