Allowed to stay, Miami student becomes face of Obama immigration policy
Obama administration gives Daniela Pelaez, a Miami high school valedictorian, a deportation reprieve. Her case affords the White House a political test of its new 'prosecutorial discretion' immigration policy.
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The administration's decision to defer Daniela's deportation had the support of some Republicans officials, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida. But such high-profile shows of bureaucratic compassion, political analysts say, are intended for the consumption of Hispanic voters, an increasingly important bloc in 2012 battleground states like Florida.Skip to next paragraph
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“If there's going to be any easing or relaxing of federal enforcement, this would be the time to do it,” ahead of the election, says Richard Fording, a political science professor at the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa.
The administration said this week it is rolling out its new deportation policy, which is aimed primarily at “criminal aliens,” and is starting to review other deportation cases involving individuals who were brought to the US as children, and thus were not accomplices to breaking immigration law.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said last fall that the administration was starting to review all US deportation cases "to ensure they constitute our highest priorities."
However, the percentages of illegal immigrants being deported on grounds of criminal behavior versus immigration violations have dropped in the past few months, according to researchers at Syracuse University in New York – from 16 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 14 percent in the first two months of 2012. It should be noted, though, that the number of total new immigration prosecutions also dropped in the same span, by 10,000, compared with a year earlier.
“The Obama administration is saying that they are using smarter enforcement criteria to target and institute deportation proceeding, but guess what? They're not,” says Mr. Kolken. “This is political posturing by the Obama administration, which knows that the Hispanic electorate is turned off by Republican anti-immigrant rhetoric but which also is concerned that the Hispanic voting bloc is going to stay home on Election Day.”
Nevertheless, the decision to defer action on Daniela's deportation case drew widespread applause, especially in Miami, where more than 2,600 students and community leaders protested last week, chanting “Justice for Daniela!” Florida, which Obama won in 2008, looms as a key battleground state in the November presidential election.
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