Report: Deportations Plummet in 2013, Lowest Since 2007

From The Washington Times by Stephen Dinan, October 30, 2013

U.S. authorities deported fewer immigrants in fiscal year 2013 than at any time since President Obama took office, according to secret numbers obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies which suggest Mr. Obama’s non-deportation policies have hindered removals of illegal immigrants.

**FILE** Immigration and Customs Enforcement is deporting fewer illegal immigrants this fiscal year, but a larger percentage of them have no criminal records. The numbers suggest that the Obama administration is struggling to meet its stated goals. (ICE via Associated Press)

Just 364,700 immigrants were removed in fiscal year 2013, according to internal numbers from U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement that CIS released Wednesday — down 11 percent from the nearly 410,000 who were deported in 2012.

The administration has testified to Congress that it has enough money to deport 400,000 every year, but Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at CIS, said Mr. Obama and the Homeland Security Department have placed so many illegal immigrants off-limits for deportations that they cannot find enough people to fulfill that quota.

“The policies that they’ve implemented, especially prosecutorial discretion and the new detainer policy, are dramatically suppressing interior enforcement,” Ms. Vaughan said. “Even though they are finding out about more illegal aliens than ever before, especially more criminal aliens, the ICE agents in the field have been ordered to look the other way.”

CIS said it obtained the numbers “despite a gag order” that ICE, which is part of the Homeland Security Department, imposed on its employees to keep the figures under wraps until they are finalized.

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the agency has not tried to hide its new priorities, which have led to changes in the demographics of deportations.

“Over the course of this administration, DHS has set clear, common sense priorities to ensure that our finite enforcement resources are focused on public safety, national security, and border security,” she said. “ICE has been vocal about the shift in our immigration enforcement strategy to focus on convicted criminals, public safety and border security and our removal numbers illustrate this.”

The CIS report is bound to shake up the immigration debate going on in Congress right now.

Immigrant-rights advocates argue that Mr. Obama is removing too many people and have called for him to halt all deportations until Congress acts. But those who want to see a crackdown say the administration is already ignoring most illegal immigrants, and said the latest numbers back that up.

Ms. Vaughan said that ICE agents and officers are encountering more immigrants than even, including those with criminal records, which makes the drop in deportations more surprising. She said there’s a “target-rich environment” but the administration has hamstrung deportations.

The 364,700 deportations are the lowest since fiscal year 2007, which was in the middle of the last time Congress debated immigration.

But the CIS report said even the 364,700 figure could be misleadingly high. Ms. Vaughan said more than half of those are immigrants caught at the border but put through ICE deportation proceedings anyway, which helps inflate total deportation figures.

Mr. Obama and his appointees at the Homeland Security Department have issued several policies designed to put illegal immigrants in the interior of the U.S. off-limits from deportations.

Probably the most famous of those is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which applies to so-called “Dreamers,” the young illegal immigrants who were usually brought to the U.S. by their parents and are considered among the most sympathetic cases in the immigration debate.

More than 11 months into operation, DACA had granted tentative legal status to 430,236 illegal immigrants.

But Ms. Vaughan said very few of those were ever in deportation proceedings in the first place, so their exclusion cannot explain the drop in removals.

Ms. Vaughan said that according to her preliminary statistics just 4 percent of deportations came from Homeland Security Investigations, which is the division responsible for worksite enforcement, anti-smuggling operations and tracking down immigrants who overstay their visas.

The administration says it is trying to focus on those with serious criminal records, but the CIS report challenges that, too.

Through the first 10 months of fiscal year 2013, ICE had removed just 128,441 criminal aliens — down 11 percent from the same period in 2012.


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