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New deportation numbers complicate Obama administration's permiso narrative

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The Obama administration has repeatedly tried to quash the rumor it believes is driving the nearly 52,000 Central American minors who have illegally crossed over the border since October: that when they arrive in the U.S., they will be granted a permiso, or free pass to stay in the country. But the latest deportation numbers released under a Freedom of Information Act actually seem to confirm that rumor; deportations of minors have plummeted during the Obama administration even as the number of minors illegally crossing has ballooned.

The number of minor immigrants who were deported or turned away at ports of entry fell from 8,143 in 2008, the last year of George W. Bush’s administration, to 1,669 last year. The new data has already sparked political mud-slinging, with critics of the Obama administration alleging that it is partly to blame for the surge of minors illegally crossings.

What’s really driving this surge of illegal immigration? Does the deportation process need to be revamped? And how will this play out politically in the midterm elections?


Brian Bennett, LA Times reporter covering homeland security and immigration in Washington, D.C. His piece on deportation data the Los Angeles Times obtained from the Immigration and Custom Enforcement through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Sonia Nazario, reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize with the Los Angeles Times for her coverage of  unaccompanied migrants entering the U.S. illegally. She followed some of these children on their difficult journey north and wrote the book "Enrique's Journey"