Last weekend, President Barack Obama disappointed those supporters of his for whom comprehensive immigration reform is the most important issue. A summer dominated by threats of ISIS infiltration via the southern border and an unprecedented crisis consisting of thousands of alien minors crossing into the United States unaccompanied forced the president to determine that the politics of immigration reform had changed. Obama opted to postpone making good on his promise to extend legal status to millions of illegal immigrants thorough an executive order.
Judging from the polls, Obama was correct. The president’s threat to institute more elements of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform plan unilaterally prompted the public to lose faith in Democrats as the party best positioned to deal with the issue of immigration.
“A new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal shows that 53% of Americans support granting undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, while 45% oppose it,” read a report via NBC News reporter Carrie Dann. “Compare that to last April, when 64% supported it and 35% opposed it.”
Democrats, who had been narrowly favored to best handle the issue of immigration for years, ceded the issue to Republicans over the course of 2014:
Political realities be damned, Obama’s pro-reform backers said. They were stung by the president’s betrayal and were not shy about saying so.
“President Barack Obama has further cemented his legacy as the #DeporterInChief,” read a banner on the website of the pro-reform organization United We Dream. Recently, it seems, the White House decided to try to avoid being tarred with that moniker.
“President Barack Obama is on pace this year to deport the fewest number of immigrants since at least 2007,” the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
According to an analysis of Homeland Security Department figures by The Associated Press, the federal agency responsible for deportations sent home 258,608 immigrants between the start of the budget year last October and July 28 this summer. During the same period a year earlier, it removed 320,167 people – meaning a decrease this year of nearly 20 percent.
Over the same period ending in July 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 344,624 people, some 25 percent more than this year, according to the federal figures obtained by the AP.
The figures, contained in weekly internal reports marked “Official Use Only,” reflect the marked decline in deportations even as Obama has delayed announcing what changes he will make to U.S. immigration policies. Immigration advocates widely expect Obama to reduce the number of people who are deported, and that’s a particularly sensitive issue in many states, leading to his postponement of any action until after the November elections.
The report revealed that the president sent White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to the Hill on Thursday where he got an earful from furious pro-reform Democratic lawmakers. There is no word yet on whether they were mollified by the White House’s apparent decision to ease off deportations. But judging from the tone of the immigration activists who were livid over Obama’s decision to punt the issue of reform until after the midterm elections, that seems unlikely.