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Latino Daily News

Tuesday December 20, 2011

Undocumented Immigrants Under Siege on Multiple Fronts

Undocumented Immigrants Under Siege on Multiple Fronts

Photo: Stop Deportations

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Undocumented immigrants in the United States will end 2011 facing more deportations, fewer jobs and the endless uncertainty about whether Congress will approve laws that allow them come out of the shadows.

Though several Democratic leaders in the Senate say there are “glimmers of hope” in a presidential electoral year for some part of a comprehensive immigration reform to be enacted, what is certain is that 2011 saw a relentless siege against those living in the country illegally.

According to official figures, in fiscal year 2011 the authorities deported 396,906 undocumented foreigners - about 27,000 more than in the final year of the George W. Bush presidency.

Roughly 55 percent of this year’s deportees had criminal records.

The figures also show that the Obama administration, which has deported more than 1 million undocumented foreigners since 2009, has beaten the record number of deportations during eight years under Bush.

But apparently neither the increase in arrests and deportations nor the decline in illegal border crossings - due to the recession and job scarcity, among other factors - is enough to appease groups demanding the expulsion of everyone without immigration papers.

The resurgence of the war against the undocumented also stems from laws passed and enacted in several southern states that have copied the example of Arizona’s SB 1070, which seeks to criminalize the undocumented.

In 2011, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, state lawmakers presented a total of 1,607 bills and resolutions related to immigration. As of Dec. 7, 42 states and Puerto Rico had adopted 197 laws and 109 resolutions on the topic.

As if the police siege and tougher border vigilance weren’t enough, the undocumented population has also suffered the hardships of a soaring jobless rate that has in turn shrunk the remittances they send their families back home.

Even so, defenders of immigrants’ rights had a few small victories to celebrate, beginning with the Obama administration’s decision to review deportation cases and give priority to the expulsion of those who can genuinely be considered a threat to public safety or national security.

At the same time, the Supreme Court announced on Dec. 13 that it will study the constitutionality of SB 1070, which has served as a model for similar laws in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Utah and South Carolina, which are also targeted for lawsuits.

The high court’s decision, expected by the end of next June, could encourage the passing of punitive laws against the undocumented, or, if SB 1070 is rescinded, it would help President Barack Obama and the Democrats secure Hispanic support in 2012.

The close to 11 million undocumented immigrants will end 2011 as they did 2010 - without comprehensive immigration reform having been moved an inch in the corridors of Congress.

The last reform was passed in 1986 under the presidency of Ronald Reagan during a year when all 435 House members and dozens of senators had to face the voters.

But, unless the “glimmers of hope” touted by Democrats actually materialize, 2012 will be another year in which Obama fails to fulfill his 2009 electoral promise for immigration reform.