De­por­ta­tions at low­est level since Obama took of­fice Just 364K in fis­cal ’13

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Au­thor­i­ties de­ported fewer il­le­gal im­mi­grants in fis­cal 2013 than at any time since Pres­i­dent Obama took of­fice, ac­cord­ing to se­cret num­bers ob­tained by the Center for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies that sug­gest Mr. Obama’s non­de­por­ta­tion poli­cies have hin­dered re­movals.

Just 364,700 il­le­gal im­mi­grants were re­moved in fis­cal 2013, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­nal num­bers from U.S. Cus­toms and Im­mi­gra­tion En­force­ment that CIS re­leased Wed­nes­day — down 11 per­cent from the nearly 410,000 who were de­ported in 2012.

Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials didn’t dis­pute the num­bers, but said their own counts are still pre­lim­i­nary.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has tes­ti­fied to Congress that it has enough money to de­port 400,000 ev­ery year, but Jes­sica Vaughan, di­rec­tor of pol­icy stud­ies at CIS, said Mr. Obama and the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment have placed so many il­le­gal im­mi­grants off-lim­its for de­por­ta­tions that they can­not find enough peo­ple to ful­fill that quota.

“The poli­cies that they’ve im­ple­mented, es­pe­cially pros­e­cu­to­rial dis­cre­tion and the new de­tainer pol­icy, are dra­mat­i­cally sup­press­ing in­te­rior en­force­ment,” Ms. Vaughan said. “Even though they are find­ing out about more il­le­gal aliens than ever be­fore, es­pe­cially more crim­i­nal aliens, the ICE agents in the field have been or­dered to look the other way.”

ICE spokes­woman Gil­lian Chris­tensen said the agency has not tried to hide its new pri­or­i­ties, which have led to changes in the de­mo­graph­ics of de­por­ta­tions.

“Over the course of this ad­min­is­tra­tion, DHS has set clear, com­mon sense pri­or­i­ties to en­sure that our fi­nite en­force­ment re­sources are fo­cused on pub­lic safety, na­tional se­cu­rity, and bor­der se­cu­rity,” she said.

“ICE has been vo­cal about the shift in our im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment strat­egy to fo­cus on con­victed crim­i­nals, pub­lic safety and bor­der se­cu­rity and our re­moval num­bers il­lus­trate this,” she said.

The CIS re­port is bound to shake up the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate go­ing on in Congress.

Im­mi­grant-rights ad­vo­cates ar­gue that Mr. Obama is re­mov­ing too many peo­ple and have called for him to halt all de­por­ta­tions un­til Congress acts.

In­deed, im­mi­grant-rights ad­vo­cates cheered the new num­bers, say­ing that if ICE con­firms them, it will mean Mr. Obama is be­gin­ning to curb ex­ces­sive en­force­ment.

“The drag­net de­por­ta­tion of 400,000 im­mi­grants an­nu­ally does noth­ing to make our streets safer, and con­sti­tutes a huge ex­pen­di­ture of gov­ern­ment re­sources,” said Ruthie Ep­stein, pol­icy an­a­lyst for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union.

But those who want to see a crack­down say the ad­min­is­tra­tion is al­ready ig­nor­ing most il­le­gal im­mi­grants, and said the lat­est num­bers back that up.

Ms. Vaughan said that ICE agents and of­fi­cers are en­coun­ter­ing more im­mi­grants than ever, in­clud­ing those with crim­i­nal records, which makes the drop in de­por­ta­tions more sur­pris­ing. She said there’s a “tar­get-rich en­vi­ron­ment” but the ad­min­is­tra­tion has ham­strung de­por­ta­tions.

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