Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
It's been a year in which immigration has played a part in everything from the economy and the 2010 census to the California governor's race, making it tough to limit the year's biggest immigration stories to a list of only five. The stories we have reviewed this week have included the tragic massacre of migrants near the Texas border in Tamaulipas, which highlighted just how dangerous clandestine passage to the United States has become; the record number of deportations under the Obama administration, part of an enforcement trade-off for broader reforms that never came; the controversial enforcement programs Secure Communities and 287(g); and the Dream Act, which prompted an unexpected student movement in support of its proposed conditional status for undocumented college students and military hopefuls.
Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
A student's bold statement, December 8, 2010
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act wasn't new when 2010 rolled around. The proposed legislation, which would have granted conditional legal status to undocumented young people who attended college or joined the military, had already been knocking around Congress for almost a decade when it was reintroduced last year.
Still, this year has been the Dream Act's biggest by far. After failing as an attachment to a Senate defense bill voted down in September, it was introduced again as a stand-alone bill. In December, it came as close as it ever has to becoming law, clearing the House Dec. 8, but falling five votes short of cloture in the Senate ten days later. The most recent version, tightened and reintroduced in late November, would have allowed young people under 30 to apply for legal status if they met all the requirements, including having arrived before age 16.
Photo by 888bailbonds/Flickr (Creative Commons)
A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009. The county extended its participation in the federal 287(g) program in October.
The record number of deportations carried out in the past two years by immigration officials under the Obama administration has been fueled, in large part, by the use of two controversial federal programs that work in cooperation with local agencies, Secure Communities and 287(g).
Both predate the current administration, but their use has been expanded as the Obama administration has shifted its focus to catching and deporting immigrants with criminal records, which the programs are meant to target. Administration officials have lauded both as instrumental to enforcement, culminating with the deportation of almost 800,000 immigrants in two years.
But neither program has worked exactly as planned, drawing heavy scrutiny this year from both immigrant advocates and government officials, including some in jurisdictions that have tried to opt out of one - the Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing program - and learned they can't.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
A man waits to be processed at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Arizona.
It was the Obama administration's strategic trade-off on immigration: A stepped-up approach to enforcement which, the President hoped, would help win over Republican lawmakers for bipartisan support of a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration system.
In the end, with insufficient support for anything broader, the only thing to stick this year has been the enforcement. The Obama administration has deported nearly 800,000 immigrants in the past two years, more than during any other two-year period in the nation's history.
The exact numbers for this year have been disputed: The record figure released last fall of more than more than 392,000 deportations in fiscal year 2010, which topped the 2009 record, turned out to include more than 19,000 immigrants removed the previous fiscal year, as well as a small number of repatriations that would normally have been counted by the U.S. Border Patrol.
Immigration has been one of the biggest topics in the news this year, pretty much as it has been nearly every year during the past decade. This year was of special interest, however, not only in terms of what happened (as in Arizona's partial enactment of its precedent-setting SB 1070), but also because of what didn't happen, as in the recent defeat of the Dream Act.
This week I'll be highlighting the top five immigration stories of 2010. This is only my list - everyone who is affected by or follows immigration issues will likely have his or her own list of the most important stories, as there are many of them. But here are the biggest stories as I've observed them this year, starting with this one:
#5: The Tamaulipas migrant massacre
Last week, when the Mexican government admitted that it was investigating the reported kidnapping of 50 Central American migrants earlier this month in the southern state of Chiapas, the news recalled a disturbing story from earlier this year: The tragic kidnapping and mass murder of 72 Central and South American migrants last August by drug cartel soldiers in the border state of Tamaulipas.