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Deportation of illegal immigrants increases under Obama administration

Neither side satisfied

Undocumented students from around the country demand the passage of the Dream Act outside the White House, despite the threat of arrests and deportation.

Criticism has been swift and sure.

While the administration focuses on some illegal immigrants with criminal records, others are allowed to remain free, creating a "sense of impunity. As long as they keep their heads down, they're in the clear. That's no way of enforcing immigration law," said Mark Krikorian, a supporter of stricter policies with the Center for Immigration Studies.

"Even the ones who haven't committed murder or rape or drug offenses, all of them have committed federal felonies," Krikorian said. He favors employer audits, but also the roundups that Obama has largely abandoned.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) similarly believes the administration is showing "apathy toward robust immigration enforcement." He said at a House hearing in March that the approach is nothing more than "selective amnesty."

Others, meanwhile, complain that enforcers continue to target otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants, splitting families and harming businesses.

"They've done a lot to start turning the ship in a more strategic and rational direction. It's hard to say how successful they've been," said Marshall Fitz, a specialist at the Center for American Progress. "Just because you change policies at the top or reprioritize your enforcement agenda doesn't mean that on the ground things have changed very much."

Obama heard that message in a closed-door White House meeting with immigration advocates in March and was taken aback, according to participants. They said he was surprised by evidence that thousands of ordinary illegal immigrants continue to be targeted and deported, often for minor violations, despite the official focus on criminals.

The discussion was "vigorous," said a White House official who was present. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "What he said was: 'We will look at what we are doing. And where we can make changes, we will make them.' The intensity of the conversation, which was already underway, increased as a result of that meeting."

The National Council of La Raza's Clarissa Martinez, who attended the meeting, said: "The gap between the intent and the reality is very, very wide. The president had thought more progress had been made."

Martinez said the federal government is "outsourcing" enforcement to local police, state troopers and deputy sheriffs, opening the way to abuses.

Sarahi Uribe agrees. A National Day Laborer Organizing Network staffer, she contends federal policy has created "a huge dragnet, and it's structural. Basically, it's anyone they can get their hands on."

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