Activists Say The White House Delay Of A Deportation Policy Review Means 70,000 More Deportations Between Now And August

Add Sojourners, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration to the list of groups which, almost incomprehensibly, asked Obama to “move cautiously.”

MAP: Detention Facilities in the U.S.

The United States currently maintains 34,000 beds and spends nearly $2 billion a year to detain immigrants, according to the ACLU and Detention Watch Network.

These individuals, like the Guatemalan grandmother described in Patty Kupfer's article “Waiting for a Miracle” (Sojourners, April 2014), are, for the most part, not criminals. Yet, 11 million immigrants in the U.S. are forced to live in the shadows and are at risk of deportation.

The following map shows the addresses of the 250 facilities and jails that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency uses to detain and deport immigrants. Many thanks to Detention Watch Network for helping us with the research of this map.

Map credits: Kara Lofton and Elaina Ramsey

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Waiting for a Miracle

JUANA TOBAR SAYS she is waiting for a miracle from God. She’s the mother of four wonderful children and a grandmother of two young girls. Her husband, Carlos, a U.S. citizen, calls her the “glue of their family” and his soul mate. Juana has lived in North Carolina for more than 20 years and serves as an usher in her church, but in the coming weeks the Obama administration will be deciding whether or not to deport her back to Guatemala.

Juana’s case is not unusual. According to its own statistics, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deported approximately 400,000 immigrants per year since President Obama took office in 2009. In March, he’s set to reach the dubious marker of 2 million deportations, more than any other president. Many of us who work with immigrant communities are left asking: Why would a president—especially one who enthusiastically supports immigration reform that would give the undocumented a chance to stay in the country and earn citizenship—so aggressively deport the same immigrants who could be legalized through reform?

Our best guess is that when Obama entered office, his administration made a calculation that if they showed they were serious about enforcement, lawmakers would be more likely to come to the table and negotiate. That goodwill never materialized. Now, five years later, ICE is feeling increasing heat from immigrant advocates.

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Why I Chained Myself to a Deportation Bus

Operation Streamline protest, photo from AFSC Photos,

Operation Streamline protest, photo from AFSC Photos,

On Oct. 11, I spent the morning under the front wheel of a bus filled with shackled immigrants. I joined this action with other community members to stop the two Homeland Security buses (operated by private contractor Wackenhut) from making it to the Operation Streamline proceedings at the Tucson federal courthouse. The buses were held and the front gate of the courthouse blocked for more than four hours, and Operation Streamline was ultimately cancelled for the day.

As my arms were locked around the wheels of the bus, I felt baptized into a deeper spirit of solidarity than I have ever known. Every one of the more than 70 immigrants on board those buses was shackled around their wrists and ankles. They were treated as if they were the biggest threats imaginable to our national security. During the action, the immigrants on the buses lifted their chains up to be seen through the darkened windows, and some of them put their palms together in front of their faces in a gesture of prayer and recognition of the meaning of the action. Other protestors at the scene had made signs in Spanish to communicate with the immigrants, with messages of: "Your struggle is our struggle;" "We are here defending your rights;" "You are not alone;" "We are with you, keep fighting;" "To desire a better life is not a crime."

Conservative Congressman Targets DREAMers

Despite the progress on immigration reform being made in the Senate, this week offered an unfortunate reminder of the uphill battle any legislation faces in the House of Representatives.

During it’s consideration of legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security, the House passed an amendment, authored by Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, to defund the administration’s efforts of prosecutorial discretion. Specifically, it would require DHS to deport young, undocumented immigrants known as “DREAMers.” The amendment also puts at risk anyone who qualifies for prosecutorial discretion under the June 2011 John Morton Memos while in deportation proceedings.

Essentially, this amendment would categorize all undocumented immigrants aside violent criminals who must be deported if encountered by law enforcement, regardless of their circumstances or contributions.