Deportations Surge Under Obama

Last week Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released new figures about the volume of people it has deported so far during Fiscal Year 2010. Now TRAC has crunched the numbers. Here are their key findings:

  • ICE deported 279,035 immigrants compared to 254,763 at this same point last year.
  • The number of non-citizens deported in the first nine months of FY 2010 is up 10 percent from 2008, the last comparable year under the Bush administration.
  • The pace of deportation for immigrants convicted of crimes is an an all time high: 60 percent more than the last year of the Bush administration, and 37 percent above Obama’s first year in office.
  • Still, more than half of those deported so far in FY 2010 – 51 percent – had no criminal record.

The new data from ICE reveals, for the first time, details about the level of offenses committed by so-called “criminal aliens.” Programs such as 287(g) and Secure Communities, in which local police share arrest data with immigration agent, have a mandate to target these immigrants. ICE claims the programs prioritize  high-level offenders convicted of crimes like murder or drug smuggling. But TRAC notes “the latest figures show that only one in six (17 percent) of non-citizens removed from the country thus far this year are those who have committed these serious crimes.”

Until now, ICE reports broke down the “criminal alien” offenses into two categories – Level 1 and Level 2/3 – lumping together the medium and low level crimes. It is a step toward transparency that the agency is now giving more detail and separating the Level 2 and 3 offeneses.

However, as TRAC notes, the agency has also taken a step backward:

“But just as ICE was releasing these new figures, its FOIA office last week responded to a long-pending TRAC request for current information on the specific criminal offenses the individual had been charged with and their outcome (convicted, not guilty, dismissed, etc.). ICE claimed they could not provide these full details — despite the fact that TRAC had previously received from the agency under FOIA precisely this information for an earlier period. ICE’s FOIA office also indicated that “[i]t is impossible” to provide the case-by-case details “to track everyone” from apprehension to release or removal although that is, of course, what the agency’s own databases are now designed to do. It asked TRAC to restrict or withdraw its request.

Unfortunately, resolving these discrepancies in ICE’s own data requires a greater degree of transparency than the agency appears currently willing to display. Just as an accountant checking the accuracy of a firm’s financial statement needs to check its books to make sure that all inflows and outflows of money are accounted for, so too ICE needs to release the details behind its latest figures so that the public can see that its figures are consistent with the details of what actually has taken place.