Total deportations of illegal aliens are at their lowest level since 1973, according to a new report released by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), debunking a claim by the Obama administration that deportations have hit an all-time high.
Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at CIS, obtained internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data, for her report, "Deportation Numbers Unwrapped," which was unveiled at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
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"In 2011, the most recent year for which all ICE and CBP totals have been reported, deportations numbered 715,495," the report states. "This was the lowest year since 1973, when 585,351 deportations were effected."
Furthermore, total removals, a category of deportation that bars an illegal alien from returning to the United States, will reach 364,700 in 2013, the lowest level since at least 2008.
"This decline has to be of great concern to policymakers, and especially to the public," Vaughn said. "It’s not as if there is a shortage of illegal aliens living in our country."
"[The decline] is occurring at a time when ICE has better tools and more resources and more personnel than ever before," she said. "So the number of removals really should be rising, but instead it’s falling."
Enforcement activity has also declined in every ICE field office over the last year, with the largest drops occurring in Atlanta (62 percent), Salt Lake City (49 percent), Washington, D.C. (46 percent), and Houston (43 percent).
Interior enforcement is also down by nearly 40 percent since 2010.
The two agencies within ICE primarily responsible for deporting illegal aliens within the country are Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
ERO is responsible for screening aliens who are incarcerated, arrested for local offenses such as drunk driving, or have fled immigration proceedings. HSI accounts for work site enforcement, overstays, and transnational gangs.
Vaughn says HSI now "contributes very little to immigration enforcement." For example, HSI is projected to only deport 5,441 illegal immigrants in 2013.
As a whole, both divisions accounted for 224,097 removals in 2010. In 2013, that number will decline to 137,987, a 38.4 percent drop.
Vaughn’s report contradicts the White House’s claim that "border security is stronger than it has ever been," and reports that deportations have hit a "record high." She said the administration is using stops of illegal immigrants on the border to boost its numbers.
"To support the claim of ‘record’ deportations in 2012, the Obama administration and its supporters cite the 409,000 removals attributed to ICE that year," the report said. "This is the highest number of removals credited to ICE in a single year; however, the number is higher because it includes the largest number of Border Patrol cases that ever have been transferred to ICE for processing in a single year."
"It does not reflect an increase in enforcement activity," the report continues. "In past years, these cases would have been handled by the Border Patrol, and counted in total deportations, but not as removals."
"Removals are at best half the number of total deportations, and do not represent the entire scope of enforcement actions taken by DHS enforcement agencies," it said.
The report also found that 872,149 illegal aliens who have received deportation orders are still living in the country.
"If there is one single statistic that illustrates the utter dysfunction of our immigration system, it’s that number," Vaughn said.
Dan Cadman, a former official for ICE and Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), called the immigration court a "theater of the absurd."
"There are now substantially more than 800,000 alien fugitives in this country who have fled from their proceedings rather than face deportation," he said. "Such a huge number staggers the mind, close to a million aliens who have made a mockery of our system because they were not detained, and obviously had no significant restraints upon them to mitigate the chance that they would flee."
If immigration enforcement is at such a decline, Mark Krikorian, executive director for CIS, asked, "What is ICE doing?"
"ICE has all these extra resources, they’re deporting radically fewer people," he said. "So, what are they doing? What is ICE doing? I mean you see press releases sometimes on counterfeit contact lens dealers."
"Returning stolen antiquities, tracking down child porn purveyors, enforcing the LACY Act, which prevents the importation of plants and other things that have been illegally obtained," Vaughn said.
"They put out their top 10 list last week of laws you didn’t know ICE enforced," she said. "I expected to see the Immigration and Nationality Act as number one."