Maria Sanchez shares the story of her son, Octavio Nava, who was deported in November 2013, during an anti-deportation rally at Federal Plaza on Saturday, March 7, 2014. This was the 5th Annual "Coming out of the Shadows" event organized by the Immigrant Youth Justice League. Peter Holderness / Sun-Times
Updated: April 17, 2014 6:34AM
President Barack Obama made a smart, politically motivated move when he issued an executive order in 2012 to stop the deportation of some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
It gave him a boost with Latinos who in overwhelming numbers helped him secure a second term.
Obama has now made another strategic move by ordering a review of deportation practices to determine how enforcement can be handled in “more humane ways” for undocumented immigrants, according to a White House statement.
“It’s what we’ve been telling him he can do,” said Tania Unzueta, a national immigration strategist from Chicago who works for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in Washington, D.C.
Among their requests, activists have been pressuring the Obama administration to stop deporting undocumented immigrants who likely would remain in the country under guidelines set in the 2013 Senate immigration reform bill backed by the White House.
“Obviously it’s a response from pressure,” Unzueta said of the president’s move.
It is also an attempt by the administration to stem the tide of shaming set to hit Obama next month.
For months, activists around the country have been planning marches and protests for April to coincide with the administration hitting the 2 million mark for deportations.
In Chicago, protesters will march from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in the city to the detention facility in the suburb of Broadview on April 7, Unzueta said.
“When the 2 million mark comes, he can fall back on something good,” Unzueta said. “So far it’s all bad.”
When pressed in the past to slow or review deportations, Obama essentially has said it’s out of his hands.
Yet, advocates for immigration reform could not be deterred.
This move will not quiet them. It shouldn’t, not as long as ICE continues to give misleading information about deportations and shatters communities with underhanded tactics.
According to the Immigration Policy Center, only a third of ICE deportees in 2013 were felons. That number included men and women who returned to the country peaceably but illegally after being deported.
Last year, when asked about setting in motion deportation proceedings for a man pulled over speeding, a Warrenville police deputy chief told me his department acted under a directive from ICE to turn over all undocumented immigrants, even those committing minor traffic violations. His department complied until ICE withdrew the order.
Around that time, news reports surfaced that ICE had ramped up enforcement to meet deportation quotas.
ICE lost some credibility with me at that point. Whatever was left disappeared when an ICE official told me its officers make busts while wearing vests labeled POLICE.
ICE gains a measure of cooperation from immigrants this way. If a police officer says he’s looking for a criminal in your apartment building, the gut reaction is to help. Sometimes it’s a set-up by ICE, a way to gain entry into a home and execute a quiet raid.
This is how Albany Park resident Anibal Fuentes Aguilar, whom I wrote about earlier this year, was arrested by ICE. He thought he was opening his door to Chicago Police officers.
Activists have successfully lobbied for more time as Fuentes Aguilar continues to appeal his deportation while under surveillance with a monitoring bracelet. But how are frightened residents of Albany Park supposed to trust cops after that?
ICE needs an overhaul. To protect this country, it needs to do more to remove undocumented immigrants who are actual criminals: Drug dealers, rapists, killers, thieves and terrorists.
Leave the others who pose no threat alone.