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Obama Administration Lies About Illegal Immigrant Deportations

Fudged numbers and cynical manipulation of Hispanic voters.

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Bio

January 6, 2012 - 12:02 am

It’s official. Liberal Democrats can’t do law enforcement. And when they try, they make a mess of things.

Here’s why: They feel that they need to be extra tough to counter the stereotype that they’re soft on crime. And sometimes, they wind up being so tough that they cross the line and violate due process. That causes them to get blowback from their left-wing base, and they respond either by retreating from their hard-line or by hiding in a fog of confusion.

If you doubt it, just look at the messy way in which the Obama administration has handled what should be a cut and dried process: the deportation of illegal immigrants.

In the nearly three years since Barack Obama took office, his administration has fired up the engines and deported a record number of illegal immigrants — more than 1.2 million. The president reached this milestone not to please Republican lawmakers in Congress, as suggested by the conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C. He did it to calm those elements of his own Democratic base — unions, African-Americans, blue collar workers, etc — that have come to feel threatened by illegal immigrants and the cheap and dependable labor they provide. You wouldn’t know it from listening to the liberal media, but illegal immigration is no more popular among Democrats in the Rust Belt states than it is with Republicans in the Deep South.

But all those deportations didn’t come without a price. Latinos are not happy. Granted, a small percentage of that population favors an open border and opposes deportations all together. But that’s the fringe. The more common view in the Latino community is that the power to deport individuals, and rip them from their families, should be wielded with extreme caution. And it’s obvious that Obama is not doing that.

According to polls, most Latinos favor removing criminal aliens — that is, illegal immigrants who have committed actual crimes (murder, assault, robbery, rape, drunk driving etc). in addition to the civil infraction of entering the country illegally. No surprise there. No one cares about criminals. They’re the low-hanging fruit of the immigration enforcement debate.

And officials in the Obama administration were banking on that distinction when they concocted an elaborate lie — and began to push it as hard as they could.

In October, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed that 55 percent of the people deported in fiscal 2011 were “criminal aliens.” Cecilia Munoz, the head of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, wrote an article on the White House Blog in which she claimed that “more than half of all removals are people with criminal records.”

Administration officials have cited the 55 percent figure repeatedly in the last few months in the hopes that critics would conclude that most of those deported by this administration had it coming, and that this would quell the criticism.

There is only one problem with the administration’s figure: it’s not even a little bit true. Researchers at Syracuse University pored over the records of thousands of deportation proceedings in immigration courts in all 50 states. They discovered that the actual percentage of deportees who were criminal aliens is much lower than the administration claims. According to the findings, only about 14.9 percent of the people deported this year were charged with any criminal offense. That means 85.1 percent committed no infraction other than being in the country illegally, which is a civil offense.

So the administration has been caught in yet another lie. That’s not news. But in this case, it was a lie told to fool people — specifically Latino voters — into thinking that this bunch is more liberal on immigration than it really is.

Luckily, not many people seem to have fallen for it. They must have known that most of the people being deported aren’t criminals — but landscapers, nannies, housekeepers, and other ordinary folks trying to scratch out a living for themselves and a better future for their children.

Are these people in the country illegally? Yes, apparently so. Should they be deported? Yes, of course.

So why go to the trouble of pretending otherwise? Why won’t this administration simply do what it feels duty bound to do, without pretending to be something it isn’t? It should apprehend and remove those who have shown contempt for our nation’s immigration laws.

But is it too much to ask that it do so without showing contempt for the rest of us?

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune, a nationally syndicated columnist, a frequent lecturer, and a regular contributor to CNN.com.
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