President Obama has generally kept true to his vow to deport only criminals and repeat immigration violators, according to a new report Thursday from the Migration Policy Institute that undercuts many of the fears immigrant rights advocates have about the severity of his policies.
MPI said that 95 percent of the immigrants deported from 2009 to 2013 met Mr. Obama’s stated national security priorities for deportations, meaning only about 77,000 of the 1.6 million illegal immigrants removed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the last five years were rank-and-file border-crossers with clean records.
Mr. Obama has pledged to try to refine his deportation policies later this year, but the MPI study, said he’ll have to make major changes such as carving out exceptions for substantial categories of illegal immigrants if he’s to make a dent in his deportation figures.
That’s because Mr. Obama has already placed most rank-and-file illegal immigrants living in the interior of the U.S. out of any danger for deportations, the MPI report concluded.
“In effect, the Obama administration has shifted from a more generalized model of enforcement to a model focused almost exclusively on illegal border crossers, obstructionists and criminals,” the MPI said.
But the report also said it is unfair to describe it as a major shift, since even under President George W. Bush, 91 percent of deportations were of criminals, repeat-immigration violators or recent border crossers. Under Mr. Obama, that’s risen to 95 percent.
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The MPI researchers said Mr. Obama has arguably added to the illegal immigrant population by nearly eliminating the risk that most illegal immigrants will be deported. The researchers said, however, that Mr. Obama’s policies could be deemed more “humane.”
“To randomly remove noncitizens who fall outside the scope of stated enforcement priorities and to purposely create a climate of fear and uncertainty competes with the effort to make enforcement more humane,” the researchers said.
While Mr. Obama has mostly kept his vow to only deport “priority” immigrants with criminal records, he has fallen short in overall deportations, according to statistics released Wednesday by the Center for Immigration Studies, which said in fiscal year 2014 ICE was projected to only deport about 312,000 immigrants.
That’s a drop of about 25 percent from the total that ICE has said it has the funding to deport each year.
ICE officials have countered that some deportations cost more than others, which might account for the steep drop.
The Center for Immigration Studies report also concluded that in fiscal year 2014, which ended Sept. 30, ICE agents encountered 585,000 potentially deportable immigrants, but released 442,000 of them without ever bothering to even try to deport them.
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“Catch and release policies continue,” concluded Jessica Vaughn, the report’s author.