Obama’s Budget Underwhelms Immigration Advocates

Photograph by John Moore/Getty Images

Immigration reform advocates demonstrate on Nov. 12, 2013 in New York City.

If President Barack Obama’s budget proposal today was meant to energize fellow Democrats heading into the November elections, it may be coming up short in at least one area: Immigration enforcement.

Obama has come under fire from fellow Democrats as his administration deports roughly 1,000 undocumented immigrants a day, more than under any other president. Religious groups and labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO, say Obama should suspend some deportations because many might be able to stay under a Senate-approved plan to create a new path to citizenship.

Instead, Obama’s budget calls for $2.6 billion for deportations, the same amount he asked for last year. It also seeks $5.4 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s controversial 287(g) program, which trains local law enforcement officers to administer federal immigration policy. The vast majority of House Democrats voted last year to completely defund the program.

“The President’s budget belies his rhetoric on immigration, and it calls into question whether he is sincere about protecting immigrants and advancing immigration reform in the Congress,” said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said in a statement.

Still, Obama’s budget would decrease the so-called bed mandate for immigration detention centers, largely operated by Florida-based GEO Group Inc. and other private prison companies, that hold foreigners facing deportation.

The president’s budget would spend $1.3 billion to lock up a minimum of 30,539 immigrants each day, down from 34,000. The spending proposal also includes $94.1 million for less expensive “alternatives to detention” to track “low-risk” immigrants.

Even that decrease wasn’t getting applause from advocates. Silky Shah, interim director of Detention Watch Network, called it “arbitrary” and “an obstacle toward true reform.”








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