LOS ANGELES, CA – MALDEF, together with the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), today released a report that assesses the unprecedented deportation rate of the last six-years, the devastating impact these deportations have had on vulnerable Latino families, and seeks to outline actions toward a more fair and just immigration policy in the United States.
“Pundits widely recognize that national political forces have, through inaction, failed to respond to the November 2012 mandate by Latino voters to repair our immigration system, but in fact, those same political forces are daily visiting significant affirmative harm on the Latino community across the country through continued discriminatory enforcement in the deportation and removal of so many peaceful Latino migrants,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF. “This paper highlights the ongoing political failures of commission and of omission, by all political forces, in this election year.”
According to the report, the confluence of legislative inaction with aggressive enforcement in deportations has had a particularly pronounced impact on the Latino community. The Obama Administration has carried out nearly two million deportations, almost entirely Latinos. In 2013, Latinos represented 96.7 percent (356, 303) of all deportations, and the top nine countries with the highest rates of deported nationals were Latin American countries.
Immigration enforcement choices have carved swaths of devastation across Latino communities, leaving a humanitarian and moral crisis in its wake. The overrepresentation of Latinos in deportations is not simply a byproduct of the large undocumented Latino population, but also a direct result of discriminatory policies at the federal, state, and local level. The report lays bare how federal targeting of Latinos was sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court forty years ago when it held in U.S. v. Brignoni-Ponce that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol may target individuals near the border based on the individual’s race or ethnicity. The Supreme Court reinforced that holding in 2012, when, in Arizona v. United States, it permitted the implementation of a law requiring police officers to inquire about an individual’s immigration status during a routine stop, under the authority of state law. Additionally, it has become commonplace to target Latinos in the workplace too, where federal I-9 audits target industries and businesses with high concentrations of Latino workers.
Since then, several states have attempted to criminalize the presence of undocumented immigrants by empowering state and local police officers to attempt to enforce immigration laws. And, just yesterday, the Supreme Court allowed a local Nebraska ordinance to stand that uses a tenant licensing scheme to drive Latino families out of the city. States and cities have also developed strategies and practices by which laws unrelated to immigration are used as proxies to conduct immigration enforcement.
“The widespread consensus to repair our dysfunctional immigration system is matched only by the deep reticence of our elected officials to reform that same system. The failure to reform and humanely implement our immigration laws represents a betrayal of the principles of inclusion and integration that our country was founded upon,” stated Jose Magana-Salgado, MALDEF Staff Attorney and principal author of the report. “This report demonstrates that there are tangible consequences for failing to act in the form of racial profiling, excessive detention, and broken families.”
Still, MALDEF believes there is a path forward, if the Administration and Congress will take steps to address the impact of immigration enforcement on the Latino community. The best solution is swift and permanent congressional action to reform the immigration system. At the same time, President Obama can and should use prosecutorial discretion and administrative relief to stop deportations and to stem the disproportionate suffering Latinos face as a result of country’s broken immigration policies. You can read a copy of the report here.