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June 21, 2021

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Deportation stats suggest Obama hasn’t upheld vow to target criminals


Jacquelyn Martin / AP

In this June 30, 2014, photo, President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, pauses while making a statement about immigration reform in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C.

The federal government deported a record number of immigrants in fiscal year 2013, according to a new Department of Homeland Security report.

The data showed that 438,421 immigrants were deported in 2013, up approximately 5 percent from the previous record of 418,397 in 2012. More than 2 million people have been deported since President Barack Obama took office.

In addition, the report suggested Obama has yet to back up a statement that his administration would focus immigration enforcement on convicted criminals and recent border crossers who pose the greatest threats to community safety.

While the number of immigrants with criminal convictions who were deported dropped slightly, the number of deported noncriminal immigrants increased. The proportion of criminal immigrants whose conviction was immigration related also increased.

Removals from the United States by Criminal Status — Fiscal years 2004 to 2011

In 2011 and 2012, those with convictions for immigration offenses accounted for 20 percent and 24 percent, respectively, of all deported immigrants with criminal convictions. In 2013 the figure rose to 31 percent.

“The latest ICE numbers confirm what our community has known all along: This administration continues deporting people in record numbers, and the vast majority of them are no threat to the community,” said Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, an immigration reform advocacy organization.

“ICE’s record deportations and President Obama’s announcement on delaying administrative relief to millions of undocumented immigrants only add insult to injury to our community. His broken promise to use his executive authority on immigration in light of Republican inaction by the end of the summer will mean more deportations and family separations.”

Criminal Deportees by Crime Category Fiscal Year 2013

Criminal Deportees by Crime Category Fiscal Year 2011

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently called for the president to halt deportations for low-priority immigrants, especially those likely to benefit from executive action or legislative reform.

Obama addressed the caucus Oct. 2, and vowed to take action after the November midterm elections. He previously promised executive action by the end of summer, and the delay angered many of his supporters.

“I am not going to give up this fight until it gets done,” Obama said at the caucus gathering. “This is not a question of if, but when.”

Trends over the last few years indicate more immigrants are being removed from border regions, rather than the interior, and an increasing number are returned to their home countries without a hearing. As the focus has turned to recent arrivals, the number of deported immigrants with criminal records inside the United States has declined.

Customs and Border Protection carried out 25 percent of all deportations in 2013, up from 17 percent in 2012. On the other hand, the number of deportations performed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which deports people caught both at the border and the interior of the country, fell from 2012 to 2013.

In 2013, a record 363,000, or 83 percent, of deportations were carried out without the immigrant seeing a judge -– either through an order issued by an enforcement agent, referred to as expedited removal, or by reinstating a previous order of deportation. In 2011, 64 percent of deportations were carried out without a court hearing.

“The latest information shows that DHS is removing more people, more quickly, with more serious consequences, but the statistics also show those people are increasingly less dangerous,” said Mark Noferi of the American Immigration Council, in a breakdown of the report. “These latest numbers beg the question of what purpose the record deportations are serving.”

While the number of deportations has risen steadily in the last few years, the number of people who leave on their own has dropped precipitously – from 322,124 in 2011 to 178,371 in 2013. This reflects a shift in enforcement strategy as more immigrants are formally deported with an order of removal. This carries greater consequences, including bans of several years from re-entering the U.S., than a voluntary departure.

Groups that say the president is not doing enough for enforcement, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, argue that the administration has shifted returns to the removal column, thus inflating deportation numbers compared to previous administrations.

While Mexicans continue to make up the largest group of deportees, the group fell as a proportion of all deportees with immigrants from Central American countries rising in the rankings. In 2013, Mexicans accounted for 72 percent of all deportees, down from 74 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras made up 24 percent of deportees in 2013, up from 18 percent in 2011.

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