The government report blends together greater and lesser crimes. While "criminal traffic offenses" includes hit-and-run accidents and DWIs, it also refers to people who ran stop signs or drove without a seat belt. While "immigration" removals include people charged with "alien smuggling," the category also counts those who were caught crossing the border without authorization.
At the Univision event, Obama also tried to shift the blame to Congress for the spike in deportations during his tenure. "Part of the reason that deportations went up is that Congress put a lot of money into it," he said.
As with any incumbent, Obama had the advantage and disadvantage of carrying his first-term record on immigration into the interview. Romney, on the other hand, faced a host of questions during his Wednesday night Univision appearance that were based primarily on positions he took during the Republican primary.
When Romney equivocated about whether he would deport an estimated 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants who are now eligible for deportation relief and work permits under Obama's deferred action policy, Ramos parried and returned with an even broader question:
JR: What you said is not very clear. On January 26 you told me that you were in favor of self-deportation. In a debate in the primary on February 22, you said that you thought that the Arizona model was a model to follow. Should the United States follow Arizona's immigration laws? And in that same response from when you told me that self-deportation will be a solution, do you think that we're going to self-deport 11 million undocumented immigrants? Are you going to deport them or not? I'm not that clear.
MR: I think I have some friends apparently. All right. I think I just answered the last part of your question which is that I said I'm not in favor of a deportation, mass deportation, a rounding up of 12 million people and taking them out of the country. I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home and that's what I mean by self-deportation. People decide if they want to go back to the country of their origin and get in line legally to be able to come to this country. Look, legal immigration is critical for America. I love legal immigration. No nation on earth brings in a million people a year into their country.
If elected president, the central question is not whether Romney will bring an end to deportations, it's whether he'll continue President Obama's policy of increased enforcement. From 2000-2009, the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. increased by 27 percent, but even taking that demographic growth into account, the Obama administration has been far more aggressive with deportations than that of Bush. In his first term, Obama has deported twice as many people -- an average of nearly 400,000 per year, according to the Pew Hispanic Center -- than Bush during the same period of his presidency.
Voters can judge Obama by his record, but who will Romney be on immigration? A pragmatic politician like Obama, deporting record amounts while using his executive authority to enact landmark immigration policy changes like deferred action? Or more like Bush, a populist trying to bridge the gap between gap between families, business interests, and his conservative Christian base.
For CHIRLA's Jorge-Mario Cabrera, the question is less about the person in the White House, and more about whether the next president can mobilize Congress and American voters to support immigration reform.
"If neither candidate is unable to form a national consensus on why we need a new path, then immigrants will continue to live in the shadows and be deported," he said.
"We have a tough road ahead of us with either candidate."