Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data released Tuesday shows that President Donald Trump is deporting fewer illegal immigrants than his predecessor, despite the administration’s tough immigration enforcement policies.
Deportations have fallen even as immigration-related arrests and judicial orders of removal have jumped significantly in the first six months of Trump’s presidency. (RELATED: Deportation Orders And Self-Removals Up Nearly A Third Under Trump)
Immigration authorities deported 84,473 illegal immigrants from Feb. 1 to June 30 — a rate of roughly 16,900 people per month. In contrast, 240,255 people were deported in Fiscal Year 2016, a rate of more than 20,000 people per month.
As a POLITICO report notes, if deportations continue at the same pace through the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30, the DHS will have removed fewer illegal immigrants than it did during even the least active years of the Obama administration.
At first glance, the lower deportation numbers suggest that Trump is not cracking down on illegal immigration as strongly as his rhetoric on the subject would suggest. However, there are two simple reasons why fewer illegal immigrants are being deported, and both, ironically, stem from the administration’s aggressive immigration enforcement.
First, there are now far fewer people trying to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border than during the Obama administration, according to DHS figures. Border agents arrested or turned away 25,031 illegal immigrants along the southwest border in July, 47 percent fewer than in the same month last year. Year-to-date, border apprehensions for FY2017 are down 22 percent from the same period in FY2016.
Since the government counts illegal immigrants caught near the border and immediately returned to Mexico as having been deported, declining border arrests translates to fewer overall deportations. Border arrests have begun to rise again after falling to recent lows under Trump, but they are still far below the number of apprehensions during the Obama years. (RELATED: Illegal Immigration Rises For Third Straight Month, Remains Below 2016 Level)
While Trump’s focus on interior enforcement — expanding the categories of illegal aliens that are subject to arrest — has deterred potential illegal border crossers, it has also exacerbated an immense backlog of cases in the immigration court system.
The courts are now weighed down by 610,000 pending cases, nearly 100,000 of which have been added in the current fiscal year, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The new cases have gummed up a system that already moves at a glacial pace due to the complex appeals process in cases involving children and family units, which surged in the last few years of the Obama administration.
As it initiates more deportation proceedings, the administration is moving to deploy more immigration judges to pare down the overall caseload. The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it has hired dozens of immigration judges to meet congressional mandates, and the White House FY2018 budget requests an 75 additional judges.
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