12 June 2012

Obama’s US immigration record unlikely to sway voters

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While President Obama makes promises to reform the US immigration system in his second term, his record during his first may speak a little louder.

US immigration

President Obama's popularity among certain demographics may not be what it once was.

A recent report shows that more than one million immigrants have been deported during the president's first term and, while promises were made to prioritise the deportation of criminals, US immigration figures have read differently.

The president made the reform of the immigration system a cornerstone of his first electoral victory and his failure to do so is being considered one of the greatest weaknesses for Republican opponent Mitt Romney to exploit in November's presidential election.

The president then changed his tactics by loosening US visa restrictions for tourists and focussing deportations on violent criminals while allowing cases of law abiding illegal immigrants essentially on the back burner.

While this policy itself was fraught with difficulties, such as many people being left in limbo as to the resolution of their case, the report published by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (Firm) shows this not to be true.

The report details almost 50,000 people who were deported in first six months of 2011 alone who had children with full citizenship status while rates of deportations of those criminal records had in fact declined.

The report states that US immigration authorities 'continue to be headed in the opposite direction from its stated goal'.

"To a large extent this policy hasn't made things better, and in some cases it has made them worse," said head of immigration advocate America's Voice Frank Sharry.

The report's findings could be a harmful blow to the president's re-election campaign. President Obama has always been seen as the champion of minorities within the US but, with most of the deported coming from minority demographics, the report could challenge this characterisation.

The Hispanic vote is widely considered the most crucial vote for either candidate to secure in November's election and while President Obama enjoyed a comfortable margin in his 2008 victory, Mr Romney is beginning to shake off his staunch immigration stance meaning it could be a much closer race this year.

"We are experiencing a feeling of deep disappointment," said Mr Sharry, who said many Hispanic voters were extremely concerned about the threat of deportation.

"The Latino community is desperate for an administration and a president that will fight for them."


The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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