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Deportations of illegal immigrants in 2012 reach new US record

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"This is nothing to be proud of,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) of Illinois, a leading lawmaker on immigration reform for a decade, in a statement on the deportation statistics.

While Representative Gutierrez lauded the crackdown on criminals as necessary, he said some 90,000 undocumented parents of American-born children continue to be deported each year.

“We must also realize that among these hundreds of thousands of deportations are parents and breadwinners and heads of American families that are assets to American communities and have committed no crimes,” the Gutierrez statement said. "Solving this problem in a humane and sensible way requires Congress to act on immigration reform and do what we have been unable to do for 25 or 30 years.”

The closest the Obama administration came to reshaping immigration policy was the summer 2012 implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, whereby some young unauthorized immigrants could gain a two-year deferral of deportation and access to work permits and driver's licenses.

Some 355,000 people have applied under the program, and just over 100,000 have been approved through mid-December, according to the latest data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services. As many as 1.7 million undocumented immigrants could be eligible for the program over time, experts say.

While immigration advocates cheered the president's DACA order, they also remember his unfulfilled promise at the start of his term in 2009 to take on immigration reform, as well as the record number of deportations under his watch.

“The credibility of the president is on the line,” says Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “The president has to lead. The president has to show Republicans and Democrats that he’s serious about this and that he’s not just going to use it as a political lightning rod.”

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