the U.S. agencies that handle illegal immigration.
executive action in an election year to ease deportations of
undocumented immigrants. Today, that plan may be increasingly fraught
In recent weeks, a tide of young, unaccompanied minors crossing the
Texas border illegally has pushed the U.S. immigration system to its
breaking point. Unable to cope with the volume of children crossing
the border without their parents, immigration authorities have had to
find emergency solutions, such as housing thousands in a San Antonio
Air Force base, a California Navy base, and a makeshift detention
center in Nogales, Ariz.
The Associated Press reported that the Nogales warehouse was running
out of supplies.
The Obama administration has linked the trend to unrest in Central
American countries, but Republican critics say an executive action
that the president took in 2012 is to blame, calling the situation “an
President Obama delayed rolling out new deportation reforms in late
May partly because he didn’t want to further anger Republicans who
accuse him of unconstitutionally bypassing Congress to set immigration
policy. Now, if he proceeds, he will have to fend off fresh claims
that the very policies he has set have pushed the country into crisis.
At issue is Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),
which in 2012 allowed some undocumented immigrants who came to America
as minors to defer deportation for two years. Last week, the
administration announced guidelines for how these immigrants could
defer deportation for a further two years.
DACA would not apply to anyone coming across the border today. Only
undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors before
June 15, 2007, are eligible. But to Republican critics, DACA created
the opportunity for misinformation and confusion.
“Word has gotten out around the world about President Obama’s lax
immigration enforcement policies and it has encouraged more
individuals to come to the United States illegally,” said Rep. Bob
Goodlatte (R) of Virginia, a key broker in immigration reform efforts
on Capitol Hill, in a statement last week.
The numbers are stark.
During the decade preceding fiscal year 2012, the federal government
agency tasked with caring for unaccompanied minors who cross the
border illegally dealt with an average of 7,000 to 8,000 cases a year,
according to a Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet. In
fiscal year 2011, the number was 6,560.
The following year, however, the number jumped to 13,625. This fiscal
year, which ends Sept. 30, 2014, federal officials are estimating that
the number could be 80,000, according to an internal memo cited by The
New York Times.
Obama called the situation a “humanitarian crisis” Monday. Poverty and
violence are driving the migration, administration officials say, and
activists working with migrants agree. But some also suggest that DACA
could be a factor.
Tania Chavez of La Union del Pueblo Entero told KRGV-TV of the Rio
Grande Valley that the “coyote” smugglers who bring Central Americans
to the U.S. illegally may be telling people that children can take
advantage of the program and find work in the United States.
Indeed, media reports have indicated that many of the migrants are
coming because they believe children will not be deported. “They’re
saying that women and children are allowed to stay,” a recently
detained undocumented immigrant from Guatemala told Monitor
correspondent Lourdes Medrano in Tucson, Ariz., Thursday.
The president is facing pressure from his political base to take new
executive action on deportations. One heckler in San Francisco yelled
at him during a speech last November: “You have a power to stop
deportation for all undocumented immigrants in this country.” The
crowd chanted: “Stop deportations! Yes we can!”
The issue is politically significant, because many Democratic-leaning
groups — including Latinos — tend to skip midterm elections, and
Republicans are poised to retake the Senate. If Democratic turnout is
bad this November, Obama could face a Republican-held Senate and House
during his final two years in office.
In 2012, DACA was seen partly as a move to get out the vote for
Obama’s presidential election. This year’s deportation reforms would
seem to be, at least in part, an attempt to do the same for key Senate
But with Republicans casting Obama as an imperial president — most
recently running roughshod over Congress in the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner
swap — the deportation reforms could confirm that claim for some
Republican voters. And with Republicans in Congress arguing that the
crisis on the border offers compelling evidence of damage, Obama faces
a new question: Might he motivate the wrong voters in November?