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Pressure Mounts on Obama Administration to Defer Deportations

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A photo of an immigrant in North Carolina, who lives in the United States without legal authorization. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

During a 2008 television interview on a presidential campaign stop, then-Sen. Barack Obama told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, “I can guarantee that we will have, in the first year, an immigration bill that I strongly support.”

Six years later, however, immigration reform remains mired in Congress. While the Senate produced a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill in 2013, and President Obama supported it, it did not become the law of the land. Meanwhile, during the Obama administration, an estimated 2 million unauthorized immigrants have been deported – more than under any president in history.

After the Senate bill was passed, advocates turned their efforts to House Republicans, pressing them to engage with the Senate legislation and take action on reform. In the past year, House Republicans have taken small steps that led to a set of immigration reform principles seen as a major step forward in their thinking on the issue. Hopes for quick change were subsequently dimmed, however, when House Speaker John Boehner indicated that Republicans were unlikely to move on reform because they did not trust the president to enforce new immigration laws.

Advocates who see House Republications as a lost cause in the near term are increasingly focusing their frustration on Obama. They are led by Latino media personalities such as Univision’s Ramos, who has been called the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media.”

“There has been a shift within the Hispanic media,” Ramos said this month. “If you read the editorial pages in the most important Spanish language newspapers, you notice immediately how the conversation has changed from attacking Republicans to attacking Obama.”

Last week, this growing frustration caused President Obama to announce that the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a review of deportation policies to see if they can be done “more humanely within the confines of the law.” The announcement came after the president's meeting with a group of Hispanic members of Congress who directly conveyed the growing anger among the Latino community and immigration reform advocates.

Americans support legalization for immigrants: 73 percent have called for legalizing immigrants, while only 24 percent said that unauthorized immigrants should not be allowed a path to legalization or citizenship. As long as Congress remains stalemated, Americans’ strong support for legalization will not be reflected in national policy. Last week immigration advocates scored a win with the announcement of the Department of Homeland Security review, but it remains to be seen whether this announcement will ultimately result in relief for immigrant families. Andrew Wainer

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