Obama deports more migrants than Bush

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The federal government deported more illegal immigrants in fiscal 2010 (which ended Sept. 30) than in any previous year.  Nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants were deported.  While that is a lot, it is estimated that there are more than 10 million people residing in the United States who entered without proper documentation.  At the present rate, it would take 25 years to deport them all – assuming they weren’t replaced by additional illegal immigrants.

The Obama administration has continued to step up enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border, and has expanded the Bush administration’s Secure Communities policy, which helps local law enforcement officials identify illegal aliens among people arrested on criminal charges.

The big bottleneck in immigration enforcement is the same under the Obama administration as under the Bush administration – failure to appoint sufficient numbers of immigration judges to process the cases.  Immigration judges are officials of the U.S. Department of Justice, not part of the federal court system.

Surveys by the Pew Hispanic Center indicate that illegal immigration fell nearly two-thirds in the past five years, but this probably is due more to the bad U.S. job market than enforcement.

What all this shows is that, for good or ill, the Obama administration’s policy on immigration is a continuation of the Bush administration’s policy.

To get rid of the illegal immigrant population would require turning the United States into a kind of East Germany in reverse.  We could do it if we had (1) the equivalent of an Iron Curtain along our Mexican and Canadian borders, (2) the equivalent of a Checkpoint Charlie at every international airport or seaport, (3) checkable biometric data on every citizen and legal resident on file in Washington and (4) immigration police comparable in numbers to our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Illegal immigrants at detention center in San Diego

I have no personal animosity toward illegal immigrants.  I respect a poor person who takes a risk in hope of a better life.  That is the spirit we honored among pioneers of an earlier era.  I remember a friend of mine, a feature writer for the Democrat and Chronicle, telling me of her grandfather’s illegal immigration.  He was a Jewish man living in western Russia right after World War One.  Foreseeing what the future held for his part of the world, decided to ask his boyhood friend, living in Rochester, N.Y., to help him get into the United States under the pretext he was his brother.   His family prospered, and his son became a successful engineer.

I don’t have a good answer to the immigration question.  There were no restrictions on immigration into this country before 1875, but I don’t think it is feasible to return to that.  I don’t think our economy or society could stand the strain.  I don’t think enforcement will stop or get rid of illegal immigrants without radical and unpalatable changes in U.S. society.  And I don’t like the status quo, which is to wink at an underclass outside the protection of U.S. law and available for exploitation.  So far as I can see, these are the choices, and none of them are good ones.

The original title of this post was: Obama follows Bush on immigration.

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