Immigration and Emigration
There has been no significant movement toward federal immigration reform since a bipartisan effort died in 2007, blocked by conservative opposition. But it has been the subject of a fever of legislation at the state level, and President Obama has suggested that could make it an issue in the coming presidential campaign.
To the dismay of Hispanic supporters, the Obama administration has not made a push for comprehensive legislation and has instead focused on a stepped-up campaign of deportation, with nearly 400,000 immigrants removed a year in 2009 and in 2010.
In a speech in May 2011, Mr. Obama stood near the border with Mexico and declared it more secure than ever. In doing so, he was trying to pressure Republicans to tackle comprehensive immigration overhaul, while at the same time working to show vital Hispanic voters that he is not the one standing in the way.
But his claim of strengthening border security won him little credit among Republicans. And it only served to alienate many Latino voters whose main concern was having Mr. Obama deliver on his campaign promise to create a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants who are here illegally.
The Obama administration's enforcement strategy has met resistance even among its usual allies. Democratic Governors from Massachusetts, Illinois and New York — states with large immigrant populations — have decided not to participate in Secure Communities, a fingerprint-sharing program.
In August 2011, the White House announced that the Department of Homeland Security would, on a case-by-case basis, suspend deportation proceedings against people who posed no public safety threat. The policy shift has been criticized by some as a backdoor form of the so-called Dream Act — a bill, blocked by Republicans in Congress, that would provide relief to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who want to attend college or join the armed forces.
A month later, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencyannounced that it had arrested 2,901 immigrants with criminal records, highlighting the Obama administration’s policy of focusing on such people while putting less emphasis on deporting illegal immigrants who pose no demonstrated threat to public safety.
Officials from the agency portrayed the seven-day sweep, called Operation Cross Check, as the largest enforcement and removal operation in its history. It involved arrests in all 50 states of criminal offenders of 115 nationalities, including people convicted of manslaughter, armed robbery, aggravated assault and sex crimes.