Deportations decline as White House pushes for immigration bill

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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WASHINGTON — The White House’s enforcement of immigration law against illegal immigrants and foreign criminals has dropped by roughly 11 percent since 2012, according to internal data collected by the Department of Homeland Security.

The revelation knocks a leg out from President Barack Obama’s repeated claims that enforcement has improved enough to allow Congress to pass a new immigration bill.

The Senate bill, passed in June, would more than double the annual immigration rate of one million and also provide a staged amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

The new data was released by the Center for Immigration Studies, which got the statistics from whistle-blowers in the department and its various divisions, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Only 364,700 out of roughly 11 million illegals were deported in the 2013 financial year, ending Oct. 1, according to the new data.

That’s down 11 percent from 2012’s total of 409,849 deportations, and is below all years since 2008, said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at CIS.

Deportations dropped even more sharply in several jurisdictions far from the border, including Virginia, D.C., Chicago, Salt Lake City and Atlanta.

White House officials say they’re concentrating their efforts to deport foreign criminals, not illegal immigrants living quietly in the United States.

But “the number of criminal aliens that ICE has removed in the last year has also declined … [to] 216,800, which is a 4 percent decline from last year, 2012,” said Vaughan.

The reduced efforts means that officials have also failed to enforce a huge number of judge-decided deportation orders, she said.

Roughly 860,000 illegal immigrants who have been ordered to be deported — and have exhausted their legal appeals — but have yet to be deported, she said.

“This decline in removals … is occurring at a time when ICE has better tools, more resources and more personnel than ever before, so the number of removals should really be rising, but it is falling,” Vaughan said.

Other data found by CIS shows that ICE police had “contact” with 700,000 illegal immigrants in 2013, but only tried to deport 170,000, said Dan Cadman, a former ICE official. ICE’s enforcement “is a theater of the absurd,” he said.

The lack of enforcement ensures that more people will try to enter and stay in the country illegally, he said. ‘Aliens are rational, and … if they think they can stay here and work profitably for a long time. … Why wouldn’t they stay?” he said.

The new data “pokes holes” in Obama’s repeated claims of increased border protections, and increased removal of illegal immigrants from the interior of the country, said Pennsylvania Republican, Rep. Lou Barletta, who won election to Congress after reducing the inflow of illegal immigrants into his town.

The exaggerated claims are “nothing more than smoke and mirrors to set the stage for an amnesty bill,” he said in a statement at the National Press Club in Washington.

The president can’t be trusted to enforce any immigration deal crafted in Congress, he said.

“I’m told that ‘If you like your health-care plan you can keep it,'” he added. “I also hear that ‘Our borders are more secure that ever,'” he said.

The decline in enforcement was hidden by the department refusal to share data, and by a new practice where the Border Patrol busses illegal immigrants who are caught at the border into detection centers run by ICE.

But ICE is responsible for arresting illegal immigrants after they reach the interior of the country.

When the border-crossers are later deported by ICE, administration officials use the manipulated statistics to claim that fewer people are trying to cross the border, and that more people are being deported from the interior.

“I have absolutely no doubt this is intentional,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

The data should “be public, it should be on the website,” said Vaughan. But it is kept hidden, she said, because “they’re afraid that people will come to their own conclusions.”

In 2000, 1.86 million aliens were deported under policies set by President Bill Clinton. Deportations dropped sharply under President George W. Bush.

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