Deportation Statistics: Separating Fact from Fiction
For more than a year, immigration reform has dominated the news. The Senate and then the House introduced bills that set off a nationwide debate about the perceived merits or inherent flaws written into legislation that would legalize 12 million illegal immigrants and, within a decade, double the number of overseas workers. Those new legal workers would compete for jobs with 20 million unemployed or under-employed Americans.
But if there had been responsible media coverage, the contentious immigration haggling may have died out before it reached the rancorous pinnacle it quickly did.
One of the arguments immigration advocates make is that granting legal status to millions of aliens would end deportations and will end keep families together. At a recent rally, protestors carried signs with President Obama’s picture that read: “Stop Deportation and Separating Families” and “Not One More Deportation.”
Early on, the media picked up on the family unity theme, and helped spread the falsehood that under Obama deportations have hit record totals. The New York Times wrote that Obama has deported 1.9 million aliens or more than 1,000 a day, “a record for an American president.”
But a conscientious investigative reporter, assuming one can be found, could access the published Department of Homeland Security immigration information and readily discover that the opposite is true. President Obama has the fewest deportations in recent history, and the lowest yearly deportation average since President Richard M. Nixon.
During the administration’s first four years, President Obama deported about 3.2 million aliens or an average annual of 800,000. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, averaged 1.3 million deportations per year. President Bush had the benefit of a pro-active Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, who was more dedicated to enforcing immigration law than Janet Napolitano.
The difference between the factual DHS count and the inflated statistics advocates quote is easily explained. More than half of the total deportations pro-immigration lobbyists cite are apprehended at the border while trying to cross illegally, and then put briefly into ICE custody before being returned. In other words, they are not torn from their families because they never made it to the interior. ICE Director John Sandweg recently admitted that in 2013 ICE deported only 134,000 illegal aliens from the interior out of an alien population estimated at 11.5 million.
According to Jessica Vaughn, a former State Department official and currently the non-partisan, Washington D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies’ Policy Director, ICE agents are now releasing more aliens than they’re deporting. President Obama has issued a series of unconstitutional executive actions that side-stepped Congress and granted prosecutorial discretion to some aliens that exempts them from deportation. Vaughn calculates that the White House’s executive orders shield at least 90 percent of the illegal alien population.
Exemptions started in June 2011 when then-ICE Director John Morton issued his infamous prosecutorial discretion memo that instructed ICE agents not to arrest broad categories of illegal aliens, including minor criminals, long-time residents, students, parents, caregivers, and a long list of other categories even though there is no statutory basis to give them special treatment.
Then, in 2012, Morton distributed another set of restrictions. Morton’s memo ordered agents to curtail their use of immigration holds which authorize ICE officers to question and detain illegal aliens identified after arrest by local law enforcement. Moreover, about 900,000 aliens ordered removed have successfully eluded ICE and remain in the U.S.
Reporters who cover the immigration beat and legislators who vote on immigration bills need to do a better job of uncovering the truth and sharing it with the American public. Unless the White House and Congress do a better job of enforcing existing immigration laws, passing new ones would make a bad situation worse.