The anger at President Obama’s deportation policies among some of his otherwise most ardent allies could pose a surprising complication in coming weeks to the delicate negotiations to overhaul the nation’s immigration system that are now underway.
The Obama administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any administration in history, provoking deep political tensions that could narrow the president’s ability to make concessions Republicans will probably demand as part of a comprehensive deal.
Latinos are widely credited with helping Obama win reelection in November, and there is high optimism among advocates about the prospects for immigration changes championed by the president.
But the deep resentment over deportations on display at the Senate hearing last week has bubbled up repeatedly as Obama and his allies have tried to devise a coordinated strategy to push an immigration bill through Congress.
In a private meeting with Obama at the White House earlier this month, officials with the nation’s leading immigration groups confronted the him directly.
One advocate told Obama that the Hispanic community was “demoralized” by ongoing deportations, said several participants who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the off-the-
Most of the attention on the possible pitfalls ahead for the immigration effort have focused on the likelihood that Republicans will balk at legislation that provides a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.
But the continued tension between Obama and immigrant groups could inject a different set of difficulties for the White House.
“In a sense, the president is on borrowed time,” said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
Newman said that for many immigrants, Obama’s policies were clearly preferable to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, but “that doesn’t erase the fact that there is tremendous apprehension about the dissonance between the president’s rhetoric and his policies.”
Under Obama, about 400,000 illegal immigrants have been deported each year, a record rate. Administration officials contend the high numbers are linked to a massive expansion of resources devoted to immigration enforcement appropriated by Congress before Obama took office.
Administration officials say they have put in place policies that better prioritize deportation efforts, focusing on immigrants who have committed serious crimes, people who just recently crossed the border and others who had been caught repeatedly violating immigration laws.
Napolitano told senators last week that 55 percent of those removed in 2012 had been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors and 96 percent fell within one of the agency’s priority categories.