The GOP hopes to score points with Americans angry about illegal immigration by attacking the Obama administration’s legal challenge to Arizona’s SB 1070, a law that punishes undocumented aliens and those who offer them shelter, work, or transportation. But the president has been an immigration hawk on other fronts.
The Obama administration supports the Secure Communities program, which requires local authorities to check arrestees’ immigration status against government databases. The Department of Homeland Security claims the program has helped find 240,000 criminal illegal immigrants, 30,000 of whom have been deported. The department has yet to release data indicating which crimes these immigrants are believed to have committed.
The administration also supports the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which pays bounties to local governments for finding illegal immigrants in their jails. A 2000 report from the Department of Justice’s inspector general showed that only 30 percent of the names turned in under the program were confirmed as illegal immigrants.
When it comes to deportations, Obama is tougher than his predecessor. About 400,000 people will be deported this fiscal year, which exceeds George W. Bush’s 2008 total by 10 percent and his 2007 total by 25 percent. That number represents the maximum the system can handle, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement chief John Morton told The Washington Post. (It still represents less than 5 percent of illegal immigrants in the U.S., according to the most conservative estimate.) While raids of job sites are down under Obama, audits to find illegal hires and fine their employers have quadrupled since Bush’s last year.