Obama's Expensive Commitment to Deportations

There were two reasons to legitimately doubt the level of Latino support and enthusiasm for Obama last year—the economy, and deportations. By last July, Obama had deported 1.4 million undocumented immigrants since the beginning of his administration, or 1.5 times more immigrants on average than Bush deported every month. This high and sustained pace of deportations fueled fair questions about the extent to which Latinos would support Obama’s reelection bid.

In the end, of course, Latinos gave overwhelming support for Obama. But there’s little sign Obama will ease on deportations, especially given the extent to which the administration has invested in immigration enforcement. According to the nonpartisan Migration Research Institute, reports The New York Times, the Obama administration spent more than $18 billion on enforcement last year. That’s more than was spent on all the other major federal law enforcement agencies combined. Here are a few of details:

According to the report, financing, staffing and technology investments for the Border Patrol have reached “historic highs,” while apprehensions of illegal border crossers have plunged by 53 percent since 2008. As a result of huge increases in spending, deportations have also “increased dramatically,” the report says, with far more immigrants removed in expedited proceedings that do not involve any formal proceeding before an immigration judge.

The budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handles interior enforcement and detention, has increased by 87 percent since 2005, to nearly $6 billion, according to the report. The number of foreigners the agency detains annually increased to 429,247 in 2011. In December, the agency announced it had deported 410,000 foreigners in 2012, giving Mr. Obama the record for the highest number of removals during his term.

This is just conjecture, but if I were looking for a way to reduce the number of deportations, I’d focus on the Republican Party, given its renewed push to win support from Latino voters. It’s the one issue where they can position themselves to the left of Obama, without risking a huge backlash from their supporters. And a GOP that’s less willing to deport—or at least, as willing as George Bush—is one that has something concrete to offer to skeptical voters.