Nearly every news story about immigration policy today parrots the claim, including, for example, the New York Times: “Since taking office, President Obama has deported more than 1.9 million foreigners, immigration officials announced last week, a record for an American president.”
But it’s not true, not even close — and especially not in Georgia. Where is Politifact when we need it?
According to the Office of Immigration Statistics within the Department of Homeland Security, which compiles and publishes immigration statistics, the Obama administration actually has the lowest number of deportations, and lowest average annual number of deportations since the Nixon administration.
In its first four years the Obama administration deported 3.2 million aliens, averaging just over 800,000 per year. Official numbers for 2013 have not been released yet, but indications are that the total will be about the same. These numbers include all deportations done by all DHS officers at the border, at the ports of entry, and from the interior of the country.
That is nowhere near the numbers of the George W. Bush administration, which deported 10.3 million aliens, averaging just over 1.3 million per year.
The real deportations record is held by the Clinton administration, which sent back 12.3 million over eight years, averaging 1.5 million per year. Even the Carter administration deported more people than the Obama administration.
Rather than use the official statistics, Obama’s team instead puts out press kits proclaiming record deportations. The catch is that these reports do not count all deportations, only those attributed to ICE, the agency responsible for interior enforcement. These have numbered about 400,000 a year since 2009, and add up to the 1.9 million figure cited by journalists.
This is the number that illegal alien activists have extrapolated to chant “1,000 deportations a day” and “1,000 Immigrant Families Broken Every Day.”
The number sounds impressive, and would be a record for ICE — but like Barry Bonds’ home run record, it’s artificially juiced. More than half of these deportations are actually people caught by the Border Patrol trying to enter illegally, who are then transferred briefly to ICE custody, not resident illegal aliens torn from their families in the interior. ICE Director John Sandweg recently admitted that ICE deported only 134,000 illegal aliens from the interior in 2013, out of a population of about 11.5 million. Interior deportations are down 40 percent since 2009.
Enforcement in Georgia has plummeted more than any other part of the country. In 2013, the Atlanta ICE field office arrested 60 percent fewer illegal aliens than the previous year, and fewer criminal aliens as well.
This is because of a series of executive-decree amnesties and so-called prosecutorial discretion policies launched by the Obama administration that shield at least 90 percent of the illegal population from enforcement. Under current rules (as distinct from the law), illegal aliens with family members and those who have not committed other serious offenses are off-limits for deportation.
As a result, ICE agents now are releasing more illegal aliens than they are deporting, even though they have more resources and technology at their disposal than ever before. Compounding the problem, ICE is refusing to accept many cases referred by local officers operating under the successful 287(g) enforcement partnerships in Cobb, Gwinnett, Hall and Whitfield counties.
ICE is doing less with more, at great cost — not only in fiscal terms, but also in public safety. When ICE fails to remove an illegal alien who has been arrested by local police, it gives that person another chance to create more victims, who are disproportionately more likely to reside in the very same immigrant community.
By shunning the work of its local law enforcement partners, ICE has left several Georgia communities more vulnerable to drug and gang crime, identity theft, and other problems closely tied to illegal immigration.
Obama’s deliberate suppression of immigration enforcement understandably has chilled enthusiasm among House Republicans for a massive comprehensive bill that has to be passed to learn what’s in it. Instead, lawmakers should pass narrower, targeted measures to boost interior enforcement and restore credibility to the laws we have.
Jessica M. Vaughan is director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington D.C.-based research institute.