Obama Administration Moves to Make Deportation More Humane

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HOST INTRO: The Obama administration is currently reviewing deportation procedures in order to make them more humane. And immigrant advocacy groups are proposing administrative changes in this regard.  Raymond Bayor reports that one of the possible changes would be the deferment of deportation for parents and siblings of Dreamers.

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Sayma Khan has just left her job as a seamstress in Jackson Heights, Queens. She spent her day sewing traditional dresses that are sold to the Bangladeshi community. But even after relaxing in a friend’s office, she still looks pensive and she is worried.

KHAN: I’m undocumented. My husband is undocumented. We have no better job here.

Khan and her two children arrived in New York in 2005 from Bangladesh.  Her husband had been working in the U.S.  for several years on an H1 visa as a researcher in molecular biology in Fordham University.

In 2009, he lost his job but the couple decided to stay even though they knew they were here illegally and subject to deportation. But her children benefited from Obama’s decision to defer deportation for dreamers.

KHAN: I’m feeling good. My son got deferred action. He has one kind of relief and my daughter’s own is under processing.

The children were eligible in 2012 when Obama used his executive powers to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program allows young people like the Khans’ children to avoid deportation and to get a work permit for two years.

Khan’s two children –a 17-year-old boy and a girl of 11 years – each paid a $465 government application fee to be able to file for deferred action. Now, they’re on a path to legal status, but their mother’s worries are not yet over. She and her husband are still subject to deportation.

KHAN: I’m thinking sometimes, if government deports me and my husband, how will my children survive? (00:08)

If for example, Khan or husband were to commit a traffic violation, they could be turned over to immigration authorities for deportation. That’s what has happened to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. A record 2.1 million people have been deported since the Obama administration came into office.

Data released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request recently showed that two-thirds of the deported people had only minor infractions such as traffic violations.

Two weeks ago, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other groups cited the data in a memo to Obama asking him to reduce deportations. The memo asked Obama to do that by executive order rather than waiting for legislation.

A bill for comprehensive immigration reform passed in the Senate but was blocked by Republicans in the House. Jon Feere of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that wants reduced immigration, says the issue has been decided.

 FEERE: The American people said no to amnesty. They said no to the Senate bill and the senate bill failed. (00:12)

Republican opposition is not Obama’s only political problem. Professor Rodolfo de la Garza at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs says the president risks alienating some white voters if he issues an executive order to reduce deportation. But if Obama does nothing, he could also lose some Latino votes.

GARZA: The risk is greater for the Democrats, in my judgment, than it is for the republicans. (00:07)

De la Garza says that Obama can still do more.

GARZA:  Is not clear how much freedom Obama has to issue a sweeping executive order that will really change deportation. He can do something. He faces genuine constraints, however.

Obama acknowledged those restraints this week in a close-door meeting with religious leaders. In a statement, he said he has no plans to issue an executive on immigration. In his view, there’s still a possibility for Congress to pass legislation.

And in addition, in June, the Homeland Security Department will complete its review of deportation procedures as ordered by Obama and issue a report.

Raymond Bayor, Columbia Radio News.

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