CREDIT: Damian Dovarganes/ AP
The Obama administration deported ten percent fewer undocumented immigrants in the 2013 fiscal year than it had in 2012, according to the latest Immigration and Customs Enforcement data. The number of deportees categorized as “criminals” was up four percent from the previous year — a possible signal that the Obama administration is focusing its efforts to deport serious offenders.
Between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officials deported 368,644 undocumented immigrants, as compared to 409,849 deportees from the previous year. The number of removals points to a “six year low” record. Fifty-nine percent of those deported in the fiscal 2013 year were classified as “criminals,” whereas 55 percent (or 225,390) of deportees were classified as “criminal” immigrants in 2012. Roughly two-thirds of immigrants apprehended and removed along the border and one-third apprehended and removed within the United States. The top three countries of origin for those removed came from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The rise in criminal deportees provides an encouraging narrative for the Obama administration, which has emphasized focusing “enforcement efforts on criminals who are here illegally”, especially those “who endanger our communities.” But the deportation statistics released to Bloomberg Businessweek still mean that 41 percent of immigrants were deported for non-criminal offenses — a figure sure to raise eyebrows among irate activists and concerned House Democrats who have demanded Obama put a pause on deportations that tear families apart.
Since 2011, the Obama administration has released “prosecutorial discretion” memos directing federal immigration officials to avert prosecuting certain undocumented immigrants who have non-serious offenses. That group includes nearly 500,000 undocumented immigrants under 31 years old, parents of U.S. citizen children, and immediate family members of military personnel.
Still, prosecutorial discretion is not a mandate. And at least some immigrants, who would otherwise qualify for discretion, are still caught up in the deportation dragnet for minor traffic violations.