Obama admin hits all-time high on prosecutions for nonviolent immigration offenses

Obama admin hits all-time high on prosecutions for nonviolent immigration offenses
Prosecutions for nonviolent immigration offenses have hit an all-time high in fiscal year 2013, up 22.6 percent over five years, with offenses often involving illegal reentry. Meanwhile, critics of such prosecutions say the system is harming families.

About 93 percent of these prosecutions were associated with people charged with offenses regarding illegal entry and reentry into the US. Illegal reentry prosecutions have gone up 76 percent under the Obama administration. The report has been compiled using data provided by the US Department of Justice.

New cases were filed against 97,384 defendants in FY2013, which ended on Sept. 30, amounting to 50 percent of all federal criminal prosecutions. 

The total of immigration prosecutions is up 5.9 percent from last year, according to an analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse of information obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Obama administration is on track to deport 2 million people by 2014. About 97 percent of people being deported are Latino and Caribbean, according to Tanya Golash-Boza, a sociologist at the University of California, Merced.

Human Right Watch researcher Grace Meng says since deportees have no legal way to return, many folks - often parents of US citizen children - try repeatedly to reenter the US illegally. Some US districts, she says, saw an estimated 80 to 90 percent of reentry defendants that had US citizen relatives.

“One US district judge, Robert Brack in New Mexico, who has sentenced over 11,000 people for illegal reentry, told me, ‘For 10 years now, I’ve been presiding over a process that destroys families every day and several times each day,’” Meng writes.

Numerous protests against the rash of deportations during Obama’s time in office have taken place nationwide. Immigration activists have been organizing around the milestone deportation number approaching. Many activists met in Phoenix in October called the “#Not1MoreDeportation” conference, NBC Latino reported.

“Imagine the president who promised immigration reform in 2008 and now as a result of his own policies, two million who would have benefited from that reform have been expelled from the country,” said B. Loewe, a spokesman for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a group that organizes deportation protests.

Despite an announcement in August by US Attorney General Eric Holder on recalibrated nonviolent-criminal prosecutions and reduced prison populations, no measures have emerged to curb prosecution of immigration offenses.

On Monday, President Obama was interrupted during a speech in California by activists urging him to use an executive order to halt deportations rather than wait for congressional approval.

"Please use your executive order!" shouted the protester, who was behind Obama on stage at the San Francisco event. "You have the power to stop deportations!" he added.

"Actually, I don't," Obama said, waving off security personnel aiming to remove the protester and others joining him. "He can stay there…. I respect the passion of these young people."

But then Obama told the protester shouting won’t make his goals come to fruition: "If you're serious about making that happen, then I'm willing to work with you.

"The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. What I'm proposing is the harder path" of amending the law, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Yet Obama has signed hundreds of executive orders, often labeled “executive actions,” on a variety of issues, from gun control to enforcing and implementing restrictions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Norman J. Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute told FactCheck.org that Obama “does not hesitate to use executive authority, but he is well within the mainstream of his modern predecessors.”