Emanuela P. Leaf
As social media explodes with comments and memes denouncing Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for their hardline stance on immigration reform and divisive and derogatory comments about immigrants, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has ushered in the New Year with a much harsher reality for many immigrants across the country.
The first raids of 2016, announced before Christmas by the Obama administration, targeted Central American families who had arrived in the United States recently. Some 121 people were deported, mostly from Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the raids targeted adults and their children who were apprehended after May 1, 2014, had been issued a removal order and had no outstanding claim for asylum.
Critics contend that many of these families might have qualified for asylum but haven’t had access to adequate representation to make their case.
In a statement released on Jan. 4 of the New Year, Johnson explained that in November 2014, he issued new priorities for immigration enforcement as part of the president’s immigration accountability executive actions. These new department-wide priorities focus our enforcement resources on convicted criminals and threats to public safety. These new enforcement priorities also focus on border security, namely the removal of those apprehended at the border or who came here illegally after Jan. 1, 2014.
In fiscal year 2015, the number of apprehensions by the U.S. Border Patrol of those attempting to cross the southern U.S. border illegally — an indicator of attempts to cross the border — decreased to 331,333. The AP reported that the number rose to 486,651 in 2014, but the number could not be confirmed because the agency has not yet released its data for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
According to the agency, with the exception of one year, this was the lowest number of apprehensions on the southern border since 1972. In recent months, however, the rate of apprehensions on the southern border has begun to climb again.
Johnson stressed that he has repeatedly said, “Our borders are not open to illegal migration; if you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values.”
As it stands, these actions by the Obama administration set the tone for a 2016 that will add to the president’s reputation of Deporter-in-Chief. And for those who want to look beneath the surface, and find the true political climate for immigration reform in the 2016 presidential race, look to the old popular saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
And in this case, the top Democrat in the country, President Obama, continues to deport immigrant families, potentially setting up Hillary Clinton as being soft on immigrants. And Republican candidates will continue to talk – because that is all candidates can do — use words — while those in power are the ones with the sticks and stones in their hands.
In light of the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, Tribuna has received numerous phone calls at its newsroom from community members looking for clarity. With that in mind, we have decided to publish on page 6 the most critical parts of an official statement released on Jan. 4 by the Department of Homeland Security, highlighting some of the actions the department will be taking in 2016.