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Ease Up on Deportations May Be on President Obama's Drawing Boards

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By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

With the outcome of the mid-term Congressional elections hanging in balance, the contentious immigration deportation issue which involves millions of people from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and elsewhere may be revised in a matter of weeks or months.

And the President Barack Obama who has presided over the largest number of deportations by any administration in the nation’s history seems ready to cut deportations of undocumented immigrants. Facing stinging criticisms from Hispanic, Caribbean, Asian and other immigrant groups of color who complain loudly that Obama wasn’t doing enough to keep families together and was far too aggressive in deporting people for minor offences, correction action seems in the wings The policy has resulted in hundreds of thousands of foreigners being forced out of the country for doing nothing more than shoplifting a bag of peanuts, driving with an expired license, getting on a bus or subway without paying the fare.

The Administration has hinted that it would weaken the secure communities program that’s at the root of the flood of deportations.

“A fresh start” was what was needed for the highly controversial and hated secure communities program that led to the deportation of so many immigrants and split up families across the nation, said Jeb Johnson, Homeland Security Secretary in a television interview.

While hinting that the White House may revamp its deportation strategy, Johnson said the Secure Communities effort was the place to begin in order to make it “an efficient way to work with state and local law enforcement to reach the removal priorities we have, those who are convicted of something.”

Democratic federal, state and local lawmakers in New York have vigorously criticized secure communities for targeting undocumented immigrants who were arrested for minor offences. They have bitterly complained about federal officials going into Riker’s Island jail to nab people, especially fathers who were arrested but not convicted of criminal offences.

U.S. Congressional representatives Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries, New York State Senator Kevin Parker and Assemblymen Karim Camara and Nick Perry, have frequently taken the White House to task over its deportation strategy.

Interestingly, the President last week joined the deportation debate by indicating that he might act unilaterally to ease the threat of deportation that hangs over the heads of millions of immigrants.

“You know, these are folks who are woven into the fabrics of our communities,” the President told law enforcement official assembled at the White House. “Their kids are going to school with our kids. Most of them are not making trouble.”

Legal experts charge that Obama hasn’t used his executive powers to slowdown deportations. He has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to review its strategy and Johnson is expected to announce changes in a matter of weeks.

“Presidents have pretty much complete discretion when it comes to enforcing criminal and other statutory regimes,” Peter Spiro, a professor of immigration law at Temple University. “President Obama can’t start handing out green cards. Short of that, from a legal perspective, there are no serious constitutional or legal constraints that apply here.”

But U.S. senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer, Democrat of New York, has issued a word of caution to President Obama, saying that modest changes to deportation regulations could imperil current immigration negotiations to get comprehensive immigration reform through the House of Representatives.

He wants the administration should give the Republicans who control the House until the end of the summer to approve immigration reform before taking unilateral action.

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