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Featured Issue: Deportation Numbers

As of October 2014, more than 2 million people have been deported since President Obama took office—the highest removal rate of any administration. This has prompted some immigration advocates to proclaim him the “deporter-in-chief” for pursuing enforcement so aggressively. At the same time, some claim that President Obama is deporting fewer people and is failing to enforce immigration law. Below AILA provides resources to understand the story behind the numbers.

Removals vs. Returns

There are two key statistics DHS deportation numbers. First are returns, individuals apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who are then returned to their country without a removal on their record. Second are removals, which carry more severe consequences, such as a bar on the person returning to the United States for five or more years. In the past decade the use of returns has dropped significantly, while removal numbers have steadily risen, and are at a historic high mark.

What do the return and removal statistics mean?

One reason for the drop in returns is the dramatic decrease in illegal immigration since the recession, which resulted in an almost 70 percent decline in the total number of border apprehensions since 2005. Thus the pool of undocumented immigrants that DHS encounters is smaller and DHS has fewer people to deport.

Additionally, in 2005, in order to impose more severe consequences on illegal immigration, DHS shifted away from the use of returns toward removals. In this respect, agency policy has become tougher and more punitive. The fact that removals have increased during a time of overall decline in illegal immigration is an indication that DHS is using more robust enforcement measures.

DHS has also been aggressively using summary removal processes-like expedited removal and reinstatement-that bypass immigration court. In 2013, 83 percent of all removals were done using summary procedures like "expedited removal" which bypass the immigration courts – 363,000 immigrants were removed by such measures. This increased use of summary removals means more people are being removed quickly, without due process.

removal graph

Additional Resources

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 14042147.