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Latinos increasingly critical of Obama's record on immigration
"We cannot be in a position in which the government only enforces the law in one direction and turns a blind eye to violations in the other direction," he said.
The record of ICE's fugitive operations teams is also mixed. The teams, which search for illegal immigrants who have evaded deportation orders, have long been criticized for bursting into the homes of non-criminal immigrants instead of targeting dangerous criminals. Under Obama, the share of criminal immigrants arrested through fugitive operations increased from less than a fourth to nearly half. Yet non-criminal immigrants continue to account for the majority of arrests, numbering nearly 20,000.
Immigrant advocates have also expressed strong reservations about the administration's shift toward auditing company employment records. The number of such audits nearly doubled in the fiscal 2009, to 1,444, with 52 companies fined for employing illegal workers.
Even programs that would appear to focus on criminal illegal immigrants have aroused the ire of immigrant advocates. They note that under the Criminal Alien Program, in which ICE agents visit prisons to identify illegal immigrants, more than half of the 232,796 immigrants targeted for deportation in fiscal 2009 were non-criminals.
Most contentious is a program that deputizes local law enforcement to identify illegal immigrants and pursue their deportation. Advocates worry that that the program, known as 287g after the legal provision that created it, lacks sufficient oversight to prevent local officials who might be prejudiced against immigrants from targeting them. Similar concerns are growing around another program, Secure Communities, in which the scanners in cooperating local jails are set up to automatically check anyone fingerprinted against homeland security databases.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors tighter controls on immigration, said that for all the anger Obama officials have aroused among advocates, their enforcement approach is necessary.
"They need credibility on enforcement," he said, or any immigration overhaul is destined to fail.