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Instead, it’s the Border Patrol and its parent agency, CBP, that have reported a major increase. CBP removals rose from about 165,000 deportations in 2010 to nearly 231,000 last year a jump of almost 40 percent.

Several other key figures jump out of the statistics, including a major drop in deportations stemming from the 287(g) program, which was designed to let state and local police help with immigration enforcement.

The Obama administration has been critical of part of that program and has canceled many of its agreements with localities. In its latest budget, the administration proposed cutting the program substantially.

Christopher Crane, the head of the ICE Council and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told The Washington Times that even if the Border Patrol is deporting more people, that shouldn’t mean ICE has to deport fewer.

“It’s not like you diverted any resources here, so why aren’t the interior enforcement numbers at a minimum in the other 46 states why aren’t they consistent with the old numbers,” he said. “Every law enforcement policy that this administration has implemented has really been a secret measure to stop enforcement across the board.”

The shift toward more border deportations doesn’t sit well with immigrant rights advocates either, though for different reasons. They say it symbolizes an overzealous effort to criminalize those caught crossing the border illegally.

Before the middle of the last decade, nearly all illegal immigrants caught at the border were simply returned a policy derided as “catch-and-release.”

But beginning in 2005, the government began to take some of those it caught along the border and charged them with criminal offenses a way of upping the penalty for unauthorized crossings.

“They are increasingly focusing on criminalizing border communities and using the criminal justice system to kind of increase their detention capacities,” said Emily Tucker, policy director at Detention Watch Network.

She said the Obama administration is “tricky” about the way it has reported deportations, trying to convince one side that it is stepping up removals while telling the other side that only serious criminals are targeted.

But Ms. Tucker said the administration got caught last month when it released thousands of immigrants from detention, blaming the sequester budget cuts. The administration told Congress that the people it released weren’t dangers and didn’t need to be held anyway but Ms. Tucker said for years the administration has told immigrant rights groups that it is holding only serious criminals.

“They’re definitely talking out of both sides of their mouth, but they’re getting caught on that a little more,” Ms. Tucker said.