I know this is a hot issue. This blog is narrowly focused on historical and recent removal statistics. Here’s my conclusion – Trump in 2017 will likely deport the same or slightly fewer immigrants than Obama did in his last year. I know this seems contrary to the general impression that Trump is far more aggressive against illegal immigrants than Obama. I will explain why.
President Obama record of deportations is shown below based on the ICE website. There is an upward trend in deportations, peaking at 409,000 in 2012, then declining to 235,000 by 2015. I’ve rounded the numbers for convenience. The deportations in fiscal year (FY) 2016 are basically the same as 2015, at 240,000 removals, or an average 20,000 deportations per month.
The blue bars are the non-criminal removals. The priority shifted during Obama’s administration to target removals of illegal immigrants with a criminal convictions, as the blue bars become smaller percentages of the entire bar over time.
The decline in removals from 2012 to 2016 is likely attributable to a reduction of immigrants coming through from Mexico. Security barriers including extension of the security fence and electronic surveillance likely discouraged immigrants or at least made the crossings much more expensive. There is a network of “coyotes” operating in many countries, such as Brazil, Guatemala and Nicaragua which organize illegal entries into the US, and my extremely limited polling indicates the cost is rising, costing as much as $10,000. News of increased border enforcement can discourage illegal entry. Therefore, it should not be interpreted that a decline in removals means that enforcement is lacking.
The Obama administration, through Executive Orders, aggressively targeted illegal immigrants with criminal records, as shown by the graph below:
The blue line is for “interior removals” (away from the border or near border towns) and is represents the Obama’s efforts to target immigrants with criminal conviction records. I don’t have a breakdown of these offenses, but they likely include fairly minor offenses.
ICE attributes the increase in removals in 2016 due to: (1) increase state and local cooperation through the priority enforcement program (PEP) and (2) increased border security. They state that 99.3% of the illegal aliens by ICE in 2016 met the enforcement priorities. The statistics for 2016 are provided below:
|At border removals||174923||72.8|
|At border convicted of a crime||78351||44.8|
|At border, not convicted of a crime||96572||55.2|
|Int. removals convicted of crime||60318||92.3|
|Int. removals not convicted of a crime||5014||7.7|
|All removals convicted of crime||138669||57.7|
|All removals not convisted of crime||101586||42.3|
|At border, non-criminals||96572||95.1|
|Int. removals, non-criminals||5014||4.9|
|Suspect of confirmed gang members||2057||0.9|
|Not suspected or confirmed gang members||238198||99.1|
Probably, if Trump’s policies are working as he claims, the interior removals of immigrants convicted of crimes would rise above 60,318 in 2017. The best estimate I have at present is 202,000 removals for 2017, which will be about 14% below 2016. This would not be any fault of enforcement, but rather a decline in border crossings. Separating fact from fiction will be challenging.