President Barack Obama may further reduce the small percentage of illegal immigrants who are sent home each year, say advocates for immigrants and would-be immigrants.
Obama “has charged his Secretary of Homeland Security… to reduce where they can the levels of deportation,” Janet Murguia, president of the major Latino ethnic lobby group, the National Council of la Raza.
“Our hope and expectation is with that [policy change] would come some reduction in the level of deportations,” she told reporters gathered outside the White House Friday evening.
The reduction could be as high as 50 percent, depending on how much Obama is willing to change agency rules, Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, told The Daily Caller.
Since 2009, Obama has sharply reduced immigration enforcement. In the 12 months up to October 2013, for example, immigration officers deported less than two percent of the nation’s population of roughly 11.7 million illegal immigrants.
“As new Americans, we’re going to make America work for us,” said Angelica Salas, the director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
“This is a community that is a fighting community, and to our immigrant community, we say ‘Keep fighting,’” said Salas, who attended a Friday meeting in the White House between Obama and the progressive advocates.
The government can reduce deportations by allowing illegals to stay even after they’re found guilty of crimes, such as driving without a license, or after they’ve been deported before, Hincapie said.
Immigration law judges should be given the authority to decide if immigrants who break civil or criminal laws should be sent home, she said.
“One of the changes would be to eliminate the illegal re-entry prohibition, which says that if someone left, re-entered the country and gets caught for driving without a license, even if that happened 10 years ago, that they would then be deported,” she said.
Also, illegals found within the United States should be sent home only if they are convicted of “murder, rape, sexual violence, human trafficking, things that are public safety,” she said.
Border agents should also face penalties if they stop border-crossers who aren’t on the priority list, which is focused on people who have committed major crimes, she said.
Border agents should also be penalized if they break the agency’s new firearms-related rules, she said. Those rules that require them to holster their guns and retreat when border-crossers throw stones at them, or when smugglers try to drive through police stops.
Those proposals would make it much harder for border or interior immigration agents to block or deport millions of previously deported illegals, if they try to return.
If her recommendations are accepted by Obama, annual deportations would drop by up to 50 percent, she suggested.
The Los Angeles Times reported that officials were considering a halt to deportations, unless an illegal immigrant commits a felony. Officials are also considering whether to end a program which helps federal immigration officials to pick up illegals arrested by state and local police forces.
Politico reported that the review of legal options began months ago, while Obama was urging House Speaker John Boehner to push an immigration-increase through the House.
Obama’s move to help illegal immigrants — many of whom are also living in households with legal immigrants — comes as he’s trying to boost November turnout among Latinos.
In 2012, Obama boosted turnout among naturalized immigrants by awarding work-permits to at least 500,000 younger illegal immigrants, even though Congress had repeatedly voted down similar proposals.
Obama may be using a similar turnout strategy in 2014, by simultaneously boosting hopes among Latinos for an amnesty, and resentment towards GOP legislators who oppose the unpopular amnesty.
Obama is raising those hopes even though polls show that middle-class and swing-voting Americans strongly prefer reduced immigration, and also prefer that any amnesty be postponed under after the borders are secured.
The demand for an amnesty was pushed Friday by some of the partisan advocates in the White House meeting.
“We need [Republican] Speaker Boehner to understand that the reason people are being deported, that people continue to die [while crossing the border], is because we don’t have immigration reform,” said Eliseo Medina told reporters Friday.
“Every day that passes without immigration reform, more people will die on the border, more families will be broken apart, and that is unacceptable,” said Medina, who is a former top union official who has frequently argued that the emotional debate over immigration enforcement can motivate Latinos to give Democrats a lock on power in Washington.
With the aid of worried Latinos, “we will create a governing coalition for the long term,” he declared in June 2009.
After two decades of lax immigration enforcement, roughly 11.7 million illegals are living in the United States, alongside roughly 35 million legal immigrants and roughly 265 million native-born Americans.
Over those two decades, Americans’ wages have dropped, and unemployment has risen.
The number of native-born, working-age Americans who aren’t working rose to roughly 50 million in 2012, up from 36 million in 2000, according to the March 13 report, titled “Still No Evidence of a Labor Shortage.” (RELATED: Data shows millions of Americans falling out of workforce)