With more than 11.2 million illegal immigrants believed to be working and living in the United States today, immigration is an issue that cannot be ignored. But while President Obama pledged to take on immigration reform, many are frustrated with the fact that his administration had deported about 1.06 million people as of September 12. Comparatively, it took former President Bust two full presidential terms to deport 1.57 million.
Of course, the situation is not a simple one. Paired with a Congress that can't seem to agree on much of anything, President Obama's push of the DREAM Act failed in the Senate in 2010 and he was unable to keep his promise to have a comprehensive reform bill before Congress during his first year.
However, President Obama revealed a new initiative last month that could slow the heavy deportations immensely. The initiative allows the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to examine and get rid of low-priority cases from backlogged deportation proceedings, focusing primarily on cases involving criminal backgrounds.
The initiative was described in a June memo from the director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who said that the agency would begin using prosecutorial discretion "to decide to what degree to enforce the law against a particular individual."
The initiative, which essentially allowed Obama to take action without depending on the bi-partisan Congress, has sparked both disapproval and approval.
The House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith, a Republican, expressed dissent saying in an email that "the U.S. Constitution put Congress in charge of setting our immigration policy ... (President Obama) does not get to pick and choose."
On the other hand, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said: "The Administration has used its discretion very sparingly ... No one should forget that immigration is critically important to Latinos, a community whose power at the polls continues to grow."
The question is, will the intuitive be enough to keep Hispanic voters loyal to Obama? In the 2008 election, 67 percent of Hispanics reportedly voted for Obama, and this is a population he will depend on for the 2012 election. Hispanics are currently the country's largest and fastest-growing minority group, with a population of more than 50.5 million, so their votes will be impactful.
Source: Reuters, "Analysis: Obama deportations raise immigration policy questions," Molly O'Tolle, Sept. 20, 2011.