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Data Show Continued Decrease of Deportations Strictly for Criminal Activity

About five months ago, I wrote about data from the Transitional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, showing that the Obama Administration deported fewer immigrants with criminal charges in 2011 than they did in 2010. The Department of Homeland Security took issue with the data, but offered no alternative data to resolve the dispute.

Now TRAC has obtained data beyond last September, which was the cutoff of the previous report. And once again, they find that even fewer criminal deportations took place in the first three months of 2012.

The data can be found here. Two years ago, ICE sought deportation orders on 10,732 immigrants. In the comparable 2012 period, from January to March, the number has dropped to just 5,450. In addition, the percentage of deportations related to criminal activity still lags at around 14%. That’s down from 17% in 2010, and pretty much at the same number as 2011.

But in this time, the whole procedure for deportations was supposed to have changed. John Morton, the Director of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, issued a prosecutorial discretion memo almost a year ago, specifically stating that all deportations should be focused primarily on serious criminals. But criminal deportations have decreased since that point. In addition, we’re supposed to be in the midst of a deportation review of hundreds of thousands of cases, all of the cases in the pipeline, which should lead to an even higher percentage of deportations based on criminal activity, since in theory those should be the only deportations allowed to proceed. But again, this isn’t happening.

Stephanie Mencimer, who flagged the TRAC data, writes:

TRAC’s numbers suggest that although deportations have fallen nationally, ICE is still wasting resources on people who don’t pose much of a threat to the country. The numbers may also reflect that both illegal immigration and violent crime have fallen pretty dramatically in the past few years (net immigration from Mexico, whose citizens make up the bulk of ICE’s court cases, is now about zero), leaving ICE with fewer potential criminals to deport in the first place.

Either way, the numbers don’t bode well for the Obama campaign, which is courting Latino voters, for whom immigration matters a great deal.

If this were merely a case of lower deportations overall, that would be one thing. But it’s the smaller percentage of criminal deportations that should raise alarms. Because this directly contradicts the stated goals of the Administration’s deportation policy.

It’s also troubling that TRAC had to again obtain this data through a Freedom of Information Act. The fact that ICE won’t release the data themselves suggests they have something to hide.

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David Dayen

David Dayen