Who's Counted? The Debate Over Deportation Numbers

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released the 2012 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, which presents data on foreign nationals in the US (legal immigrants, tourists, refugees, ...) as well as data on immigration enforcement actions, including alien apprehensions, removals, and returns.  2012 is the latest year for which complete figures are available.

At first glance, it appears that deportations have reached record numbers during the Obama administration.  In 2012, the US deported 199,000 immigrants with a prior criminal conviction, 220,000 immigrants with no criminal record, and 365,000 were apprehended trying to cross the border (up from 340,000 in 2011).  This prompted various media to report that "During his five years in office, the Obama administration has sent 1.93 million people back to their home countries, close to what President George W. Bush did in eight years and nearly as many as in the 108 years before Bush took office" (Bloomberg News).



But Jessica Vaughan, of the Center for Immigration Studies, argues that the Obama administration's "record" deportation numbers are the artificial result of a change in who now gets counted as "removals."  Historically, "removals" referred to those immigrants present on US soil.  They fall under the jurisdiction of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).  "Returns" are people apprehended at the border by Border Patrol.  In 2011, Vaughan writes, some of the caseload of Border Patrol was shifted onto ICE, with the result that "more than one-half of removals attributed to ICE were the result of Border Patrol arrests that would never have been counted as a removal in prior years."

Using data from the Yearbook table (table 39) which shows the number of "removals" and "returns" by all immigration enforcement agencies going back to 1927, Vaughan shows that the highest number of deportations on record was in 2000, under the Clinton administration, and that, far from being record-breaking, current deportation levels are the lowest they have been since the mid-1970s.



Read more:
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/24/record-number-of-deportations-in-2012/
http://www.dhs.gov/yearbook-immigration-statistics-2012-enforcement-actions
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-19/states-limit-help-to-u-s-agency-on-immigrant-detentions.html
http://cis.org/ICE-Illegal-Immigrant-Deportations
http://www.cis.org/vaughan/obama-deportations-definitely-not-record-breaking

Frederique Laubepin

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