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Deportations of illegal immigrants in 2012 reach new US record

The Obama administration deported at least 400,000 illegal immigrants in fiscal year 2012, a new record. It emphasizes deporting 'criminal aliens' to protect public safety, but the high figure serves to remind Latinos of the president's unfilled pledge to reform immigration policy.

By Staff writer / December 24, 2012

A marker in the road at the San Ysidro border crossing shows the line between the US and Mexico. Deportations have been up in 2012, with more than 400,000 people removed from the United States.

Mike Blake/Reuters/File

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Washington

The United States deported more than 400,000 illegal immigrants in 2012, the most of any year in the nation’s history, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reports.

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The record number, released Friday, is also important for another reason: It is a stinging reminder to Latinos that President Obama failed during his first term to pursue the comprehensive immigration reform that they seek.

The Obama administration framed its 2012 work in immigration enforcement as focused mainly on criminals – 55 percent of deportations came from convicted criminals, a record high – rather than on indiscriminately rounding up illegal immigrants and sending them home. ICE on Friday also issued new detention guidelines intended to emphasize legal action against those who have committed crimes above and beyond immigration violations.

“While the [fiscal year] 2012 removals indicate that we continue to make progress in focusing resources on criminal and priority aliens, we are constantly looking for ways to ensure that we are doing everything we can to utilize our resources in a way that maximizes public safety,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement. 

In four years, the Obama administration has deported three-quarters of the number of people that President George W. Bush’s administration did in eight. And unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama made no concerted effort to reform the US immigration system – a history that’s not lost on the president’s Latino supporters.

"This is nothing to be proud of,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) of Illinois, a leading lawmaker on immigration reform for a decade, in a statement on the deportation statistics.

While Representative Gutierrez lauded the crackdown on criminals as necessary, he said some 90,000 undocumented parents of American-born children continue to be deported each year.

“We must also realize that among these hundreds of thousands of deportations are parents and breadwinners and heads of American families that are assets to American communities and have committed no crimes,” the Gutierrez statement said. "Solving this problem in a humane and sensible way requires Congress to act on immigration reform and do what we have been unable to do for 25 or 30 years.”

The closest the Obama administration came to reshaping immigration policy was the summer 2012 implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, whereby some young unauthorized immigrants could gain a two-year deferral of deportation and access to work permits and driver's licenses.

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