I should mention that even if the Obama administration’s mass deportations had really been mass deportations of
gang bangers that could not possibly have made his horrible record on immigration any more O.K. by me. Most of the
crimes that immigrants (documented or undocumented) get deported over are bullshit beefs and things that should not have been crimes in the first place — victimless social
offenses, drug possession and the like. The only appropriate punishment for such
crimes is no punishment at all and people who are caught doing it should be left free to go on their way, regardless of immigration status. But, moreover, even if someone is caught doing a harm that invades the rights of some other person in the community — if someone is stealing, or beating people up, or threatening people, and the person doing it happens to be an immigrant — then there are already ways of dealing with that that also have nothing to do with immigration status. A crime against person or property doesn’t somehow become worse because the person doing it was born on the other side of an arbitrary political border. And the fact that they were born on the other side of an arbitrary political border doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate to, say, punish petty theft or extortion by forcibly exiling the person who did it from the country. That’s not how a criminal or a gang-banger born in Laredo ought to be treated, and to treat a criminal or a gang-banger born in Nuevo Laredo that way, just because of her birth nationality, is both discriminatory and wildly disproportionate. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that, on this issue, what the Obama administration has been saying about its border-segregation policies is, once again, a smiling promise stretched over a massive lie. In fact the Obama administration has massively escalated aggression against immigrants, and its dragnets have become broader, not narrower, than those under his Democratic and Republican predecessors. Emphasis added.
President Obama used a new word during the presidential debate on Tuesday night to describe the masses of immigrants he’s deported during his tenure. He called them “gangbangers,” as in:
What I’ve also said is if we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that’s what we’ve done.
The line was a curious one, given the reality of Obama’s deportation record, which has been marked by mass deportations to the tune of nearly 400,000 every year carried out at a clip unseen by any prior president. The Obama administration has defended its “smart” enforcement tactics by, as Obama did on Tuesday night, pointing out that it makes a point to deport those who have committed serious crimes and are a threat to their communities and national security. And yet, data collected over Obama’s tenure show that among the close to 400,000 people who are deported annually, far from being “gangbangers,” the vast majority have no criminal record whatsoever.
In preliminary data for the January-March 2012 quarter collected by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, for example, just 14 percent of those deported had any criminal record. (Immigration violations are typically considered civil violations, and do not constitute a criminal offense.) But, a closer look at the data shows that just 4 percent of those deported had a so-called “aggravated felony” on their record, an immigration court-specific designation of crimes that can include crimes as serious as rape and murder, but has also been expanded to include violations like theft or non-violent drug offenses.
And as the Obama administration struggles to keep up with it do-they-or-don-they-have-it deportation quota, immigration officials seem to be tapping out the numbers of deportable immigrants with criminal records. In the last four years, the percent of those deported with any kind of criminal history has dropped from 17.5 to 14 percent, while those with “aggravated felonies” made up 5.2 percent of those deported in 2008. This year they’re 3.6 percent. That is, while the Obama administration continues to deport roughly the same record-breaking number of people annually, it’s grabbing up everyday people whose deportations the Obama administration has said it has protections in place to prevent, including those who would otherwise be eligible for the federal DREAM Act, parents with U.S. citizen kids in the country who have lived quiet lives, students and fathers who have communities and dreams in the U.S.—people who are hardly the “gangbangers” Obama wants you to think he’s kicking out of the country.
I had a joke I used to run in these features that played off our Progressive Peace President’s 2008 campaign slogan, which was to close off these posts with some variation on
The more things Change…. It was funny to me at the time. It’s not as funny to me anymore. Because in fact things have not stayed the same, at least not on this front. While campaigning as an alleged supporter of immigrant rights, and making grandstanding lies one after another, Obama’s government has actively made the situation far worse for immigrants than it was when he entered office. By any standard of individual liberty, social equality, or plain old humanitarian compassion, his record in office has been appalling.
- GT 2011-10-22: Change You Can Believe In (Vol. III, No. 10): Record-breaking deportations
- GT 2012-08-06: Free Alfonso Perez
- GT 2012-08-18: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights holds hearings on Arizona and Alabama apartheid bills
-  [See for example this story. Obama promised that he would unilaterally halt deportation proceedings against DREAM-eligible immigrants, in the last few months before the election, in a particularly cynical And Now They Bring Up You move. But the promise was a lie, and was broken within weeks of when he made it. –Ed.] ↩