Fear of Leaving

Seven illegal immigrants have chained themselves to the White House fence recently to demand President Obama halt all deportations, saying he has a moral obligation to keep families together.

“Stop deportations — not one more,” onlookers chanted as police moved in to remove the activists, who activists broadcast a live video of their action.

A day earlier, Mr. Obama had rejected their calls, telling Telemundo, a Spanish-language network, that halting more deportations is “not an option.”

Activists said Mr. Obama drew the same line in his first term when he rejected calls to stop deporting young illegal immigrants, the so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. as young children, but the president relented just ahead of the election — and went on to win a large share of Hispanic votes en route to reelection.

After that previous reversal, activists hope — and some expect — Mr. Obama to change his mind this year, if House Republicans don’t pass a bill legalizing illegal immigrants.

“When he said he didn’t have the power to stop deporting DREAMers, we built a powerful case with grassroots pressure and legal analysis and won a monumental victory with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” said Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director of United We Dream. “He does have the power to stop deportations and we will keep challenging him.”

Mr. Obama on Monday told “Noticiero Telemundo,” a Spanish-language news program, that halting deportations of parents of Dreamers was “not an option.”

He has set records for deportations, removing about 400,000 people a year from the country, in order to be able to argue to conservatives that he is serious about enforcing immigration laws.

But he says he has tried to focus those deportation efforts on criminals and repeat-immigration violators, leaving most rank-and-file illegal immigrants in little danger of being deported.

However, a new report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse suggests the administration’s deportation efforts are increasingly missing their mark.

TRAC traced the number of detainers placed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on immigrants the agency wants to put in deportation proceedings, and said that for the first four months of 2013, roughly half of those ICE targeted had no criminal conviction — not even a minor traffic violation.

If traffic violations — including driving while intoxicated — and marijuana possession cases are removed, the number of those with no other serious criminal record rose to two-thirds of all cases.

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