President Obama announced over the weekend that he would delay promised executive action to give reprieve to some undocumented immigrants until after the November election. Administration officials cited electoral politics, as some Democratic members of Congress fear that White House immigration action would hurt their chances of re-election. But in the two months until November 4, tens of thousands of immigrants could be deported and detained.
Officials say the White House still plans to take action before the end of the year. But that delay will have consequences on individual immigrants. By some estimates calculated using the most recent annual deportation statistics, about 1,100 deportations are carried out every day. That means that in the two months left until the midterm, there would be at least 64,900 deportations, with at least another 30,000 immigrants languishing in detention centers on a daily basis due to a Congressional bed mandate that ensures that the government has enough funding to “maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds.” Many, but not all of the deportations and detentions, could have been prevented through the use of executive action. The number of potential deportations could still be higher since there is typically a delay between the time a program is announced and implementation and because Obama is unlikely to act the day after the election.
One expected proposal that advocacy groups hope would be folded into President Obama’s executive action includes broader protections to undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a long time. A recent Pew study found that at least half of all undocumented immigrants have been in the country for a median time of nearly 13 years.
The delay will also affect the families of deportees. At least 30 children will share their stories of having parents who were deported in front of the White House on Monday, in an event organized by We Belong Together and American Fraternity. Many of those children are forced into foster care, but the impact of detention and deportation also has a negative psychological effect on children. Those with an incarcerated parent are 2.5 times more likely to experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
Undocumented activist Erika Andiola who came into the national spotlight after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials came to her house to detain her brother and mother, said Saturday, “we have a father in detention who won’t see his U.S. citizen children. I have my mother who can still be deported this December. The President chose politics over families.”
Obama previously pledged to make immigration enforcement more rational and humane if Congress failed to act by the end of the summer, and he reinforced that commitment to act in September, after Congress went on vacation without passing any immigration bills. Reports suggested Obama’s proposal would likely give some individuals with ties to the country and no criminal history temporary reprieve from deportation. But a senior White House official said over the weekend that the action would have to wait until after November elections for it to be “sustainable,” particularly because some Republicans ratcheted up their anti-reform rhetoric after the uptick of unaccompanied child arrivals at the southern border. He blamed Republicans for polarizing the issue and “poison[ing]” the long term prospects for comprehensive immigration reform.
The organization Southern Border Communities Coalition stated in a press release, “Southern border residents have paid a high-toll for the abusive and inhumane immigration system. Cases of deadly shootings and abuses committed by Customs and Border Patrol agents continue to be unresolved, hundreds of migrants perish in the deserts and mountains of the southern border and refugee families endure deplorable conditions in detention centers. This takes place while tens of millions of border residents continue to face unconstitutional practices by federal agents. Patience is running out.”
About two-thirds of the 368,644 deportations last year occurred at or near the border, where migrants apprehended and detained were sent back without a court proceeding. But “border” deportations can also include immigrants who hadn’t recently crossed the border, but live within 100 miles of the border, regardless of how long they have lived in the United States. It’s less likely that border removals would be impacted by a potential executive order. Department of Homeland Security officials insist that they are focused on detaining and deporting immigrants who commit serious crimes or are caught crossing the border without documents.