Carving out traffic crimes could stop 50,000 deportations a year
As many as 50,000 illegal immigrants a year could be allowed to remain in the U.S. if President Obama decides that traffic crimes no longer rise to the level of deportation, according to a report being released Tuesday by the Center for Immigration Studies.
The report comes as all sides in the immigration debate look ahead to November, after the congressional elections, when Mr. Obama has vowed to take more steps to halt deportations — and advocates have pressed for him to stop deporting those convicted of what activists say are minor crimes.
The Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for a crackdown in immigration laws, said many of those lesser offenses are just the tip of more serious crimes, so excusing the traffic crimes could mean letting killers remain in the U.S.
“If Mr. Obama gives amnesty to illegal aliens with ‘traffic offenses,’ know that more Americans will be killed by these same illegal alien offenders,” said Maria Espinoza, national director of the Remembrance Project, which draws attention to Americans killed by illegal immigrants.
“This would be an outrage and incomprehensible to all Americans, especially those families whose loved one was killed by an illegal alien with prior traffic offenses,” she said.
According to the center’s calculations, 49,997 immigrants with traffic-related criminal convictions were deported in 2011, 48,490 were removed in 2012, and 39,277 were kicked out last year.
Of those, more than 20,000 each year were convicted of drunken driving, more than 2,000 were convicted of hit-and-run, and about five dozen were convicted of carjacking.
The majority of immigrants being deported for traffic crimes had been deported at least once before, meaning they were kicked out and yet managed to sneak back into the U.S., according to the center’s numbers.
Deportations have become the chief flashpoint in the immigration debate as Mr. Obama has sought to set new priorities for who gets kicked out.
In 2012, he began his “deferred action” program, which stopped deporting so-called dreamers, the young adult illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Now activists want him to expand that program to include their illegal immigrant parents, the illegal immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and those convicted of minor crimes or offenses related only to immigration law.
The president had imposed an end-ofsummer deadline on himself for taking action but put that on hold in the face of a potential voter backlash, which could have cost his party Senate seats in the November elections.
Over the weekend, the White House press secretary promised Spanish-language network Telemundo that Mr. Obama will act before the end of the year.
More than 11 million illegal immigrants are estimated to reside in the U.S., and most of them face little actual danger of being deported, though only those granted special tentative status, such as the dreamers, have been given permits enabling them to live and work freely.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, last week predicted that Mr. Obama’s delay until after the election frees him up to be more generous than he would have been had he acted before the election.
“What he said was he wanted to do it right, and so I think doing right means doing as much as possible,” she told NBC News.