Many Latinos are critical of President Barack Obama for having caused an upsurge in undocumented immigrant deportations, believing that Obama has broken his campaign promise to pass immigration reform in his first year in office. This belief may prevent the president from once again receiving two thirds of the Hispanic vote as he did in 2008, which is turning out to be a critical component of his reelection prospects and is a demographic he is counting on again this time around. As of late, it seems, the Obama administration is hard at work trying to change that perception held among Latinos. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data-gathering, research and distribution organization at Syracuse University, reported that the numbers of deportation proceedings initiated between October and December 2011 fell by 33% from the previous quarter.
However, the report was contested by government officials who asserted that they were inaccurate and made conclusions about ICE’s enforcement efforts based on incomplete data. “As of Feb. 6 we had this fiscal year 121,000 people removed. With the first quarter being traditionally slower, we are still around 400,000 removals; we are congressionally funded to remove 400,000 a year.” According to ICE, the annual number of deportations has been stable in the last few years: 370,000 in Fiscal Year 2008; 390,000 in 2009; 393,000 in 2010; and 397,000 in 2011. In its first three years, the Obama administration deported record-high numbers of undocumented immigrants, removing about 1.2 million undocumented immigrants. Critics believe that record stands in stark contrast to Obama’s promise as a presidential candidate in 2008 to promote immigration reform. “Obama in his campaign promised to tackle immigration in his first year,” said immigration attorney Aggie R. Hoffman. “But he didn’t send a single immigration bill to Congress.” But the political rhetoric aside, there is a lot at stake for Obama. He cannot afford to lose the Latino vote, including that of those who criticize the lack of progress on comprehensive immigration reform and the number of deportations made under his administration. But on the other hand, if the idea from last week’s TRAC report that deportation proceedings are down continues to spread, Obama may alienate a number of voters concerned with undocumented immigration.