President Obama has promised to reform US immigration policy if he secures a second term.
28 February 2012
US immigration authorities report drastic drop in deportations
US immigration authorities have confirmed a dramatic decrease in forced deportations in the last quarter of 2011 following President Barack Obama's efforts to place better control on the process.
President Obama made a comprehensive overhaul of US immigration policy a cornerstone of his election promise in 2008 but record numbers of deportations in his first term have not endeared him to voters, especially within the crucial Hispanic demographic which has vested interests in immigration policy due to ties to Central and South America.
Now, in an election year, President Obama has repeated those pledges and has stood true to his word with a summer directive and a pilot programme rolled out in late 2011 yielding a 33% decline in deportations.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the government body responsible for deportations, confirmed that less than 40,000 people were deported between October and December last year, compared to almost 60,000 in the preceding quarter.
In a report accompanying the figures, ICE said: "Filings are typically lower at this time of year, but even adjusting for this seasonal drop-off and for late reporting there appears to have been over 10,000 fewer deportation filings than would have been expected last quarter."
President Obama's administration issued a directive in June 2011 which instructed agencies to being prioritising deportation cases which concerned illegal immigrants with criminal records. While there were a few concerns regarding the uncertainty of others' cases raised, the decision was met with much praise from most authorities.
"It makes no sense to spend our enforcement resources on these low priority cases when they could be used with more impact on others, including individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes," said Cecilia Munoz, director of Intergovernmental Affairs.
President Obama's critics have noted that the proportion of criminals deported has remained largely unchanged and the directive was merely a political move intended to appeal to Hispanic voters. Deportations reached record levels in the last four years and many political commentators have claimed this could prevent the incumbent president from securing a second term.
In response to these claims, President Obama has assured Hispanic voters that he will seek the immigration reform he promised in his second term.
"My presidency is not over. I've got another five years coming up. We're going to get this done."
The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.