Even as Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has reiterated her call on United States President Barack Obama to suspend deportations to the Caribbean, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John A. Boehner, has signaled his intention to embrace a series of limited changes to U.S. immigration laws.
Aides to Boehner say he is committed to “step by step” initiatives to revise the immigration laws.
In giving immigration advocates new hope for 2014, the House Speaker has reportedly hired Rebecca Tallent, a longtime immigration adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), a long-time advocate of immigration reform.
Immigration advocates also say Boehner has hired Tallent because of his penchant to make an “immigration deal” this year.
Additionally, advocates say Boehner’s end-of-year criticism of Tea Party groups, accusing them of losing “all credibility”, indicates his plans on immigration.
“The American people are skeptical of big, comprehensive bills, and frankly, they should be,” Boehner told reporters recently.
“The only way to make sure immigration reform works this time is to address these complicated issues one step at a time,” he added. “I think doing so will give the American people confidence that we’re dealing with these issues in a thoughtful way and a deliberative way.”
Obama, on the other hand, said he is open to the piecemeal approach on immigration favored by House Republicans only if it does not abandon comprehensive goals in legislation that passed the Senate last summer.
In the interim, immigration change advocates continue to demand an end to deportations.
“I have asked President Obama to suspend deportations of non-violent persons until we enact comprehensive immigration reform that permits these families to resolve their legal status in the United States,” Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, told Caribbean Life.
“In each instance of deportation, families are forcibly separated, leaving behind a husband or wife without a spouse or children without a parent,” added Clarke, who is the Ranking Member of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies.
“These forced separations of families are excessive and has created a crisis that has resulted in more harm than good,” she continued. “The exercise of excessive deportation is inhumane and flies in the face of the values and morals of a nation established by immigrants for immigrants. We cannot allow this exercise to continue.”
In announcing the year-end removal numbers, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said Jamaicans were among the top 10 nationals deported in 2013.
ICE said the top 10 deportees were from Latin American and the Caribbean, with 1,119 from Jamaicans.
ICE also said that 2, 462 nationals from the Dominican Republic were deported.
The immigration agency said Mexico continues to be the leading country of origin for those removed, followed by Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The figures for Mexico show 241,493 deportees; Guatemala 47,769; Honduras 37,049; El Salvador 21,602; Ecuador 1,616; Brazil 1,500; Colombia 1,429; and Nicaragua 1,383.
ICE said 98 percent of the agency’s total removals were convicted criminals, recent border crossers, illegal re-entrants or those previously removed “in line with agency’s enforcement priorities.”
Clarke said “many of these men and women have lived in the United States for practically their entire lives.
“Many arrived here in their youth as children and, in many cases, entered the United States lawfully and were granted resident status,” she said.
Immigration officials said the number of deportees this year was 10 percent fewer than in the previous year.
ICE said the government deported 343,020 immigrants, from Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 7, 2013, who were in the U.S. illegally.
“I would bet money that it will be done before the presidential election of 2016,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and one of the architects of the immigration legislation in the Senate, referring to possible passage of comprehensive immigration reform.
“But I think there’s a very good chance it will get done considerably sooner than that — in 2014,” he added.