Tracking Obama’s deportation numbers
Barack Obama has called himself the “champion in chief” of immigration law reform. Latino activists, angry at his administration’s removal of illegal immigrants, have responded by calling him the deporter in chief. What do the data tell us?
“America is expelling illegal immigrants at nine times the rate of 20 years ago; nearly 2m so far under Barack Obama, easily outpacing any previous president,” the Economist wrote in February 2014. “Border patrol agents no longer just patrol the border; they scour the country for illegals to eject. The deportation machine costs more than all other areas of federal criminal law-enforcement combined.”
Critics may declare President Obama soft on immigration, but as this Reuters graphic shows, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data the Department of Homeland Security deported 414,481 people in fiscal year 2014, down from 438,421 the year before. Each year of the Obama administration has seen more deportations than any preceding president; the pre-Obama high of 358,886 removals in FY2008 came during President George W. Bush’s last full fiscal year in office.
According to the DHS, deportation figures “reflect the Department’s commitment to border security and public safety by focusing on smart and effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of convicted criminals and recent border entrants.” T0 this end, 85 percent of 2014 ICE removals and returns were people who had been previously convicted of a crime, up from 67 percent in 2011. However, as noted by constitutional law professor Herman Schwartz and others, some critics say that ICE agents have even arrested and deported people on trumped-up charges.
The issue is only going to pick up steam. Last week, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a court order suspending President Obama’s executive action on the deportation of illegal immigrants. President Obama’s order, issued in November, would allow 4.7 million people—mostly the parents of undocumented children—to stay in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. Meanwhile, conservative Republicans are urging House Speak John Boehner not to capitulate on the issue and Senate Republicans are mulling a bill that would cut off Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding at midnight on Friday, if an agreement on that same executive order isn’t reached.