Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
December 19, 2013
The U.S. said Thursday it deported nearly 369,000 people who were in the country illegally or who were trying to cross the border without permission in 2013, down about 10% from a year earlier.
It marks the first drop in deportations after four-straight years of steady increases to record levels under the Obama administration.
The decline came because a greater number of the cases in 2013 involved criminals or people from Central America, which make them more complex to handle and require more agency resources, said John Sandweg, acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The report comes amid growing pressure on the Obama administration from immigration advocates to halt deportations, particularly of people who would qualify for legal status under legislation being considered by Congress. President Barack Obama has said he doesn't have authority to halt deportations unilaterally.
The administration said most of the removals in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 involved people apprehended at the border who were trying to enter the U.S., rather than people with established lives inside the country.
A total of 368,644 people were deported in fiscal year 2013. Of them, 235,093 were apprehended at the border, Thursday's report said.
Of the 133,551 people deported from the interior of the U.S., 82% previously had been convicted of a crime.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says it places a priority on deportations of people who have criminal convictions, repeat immigration violators and those considered threats to national security.
"ICE is committed to enforcing the nation's immigration laws in a smart, sensible manner," Mr. Sandweg said. He said that, overall, 98% of people removed met one of the enforcement priority categories.
The 2013 deportation numbers are comparable to 2008, President George W. Bush's last year in office, when 369,221 people were deported. The numbers under Mr. Obama had grown every year until last year's drop.
Immigration advocates said despite the drop, too many people are being deported.
"How much longer do we have to stand by and watch our families get torn apart by unscrupulous immigration agents?" asked Eddie Carmona, campaign manager for PICO National Network's Campaign for Citizenship, a network of religious groups. "It's well past the time for the Obama administration to provide our community the relief it needs and for Congress to pass immigration reform that puts an end to these egregious deportations once and for all."
The administration also has met criticism from Republicans, who say it hasn't enforced immigration law aggressively enough. These critics are particularly upset about the administration's decision last year to allow many people brought to the U.S. illegally as children legal harbor to stay, even though legislation providing for the same hasn't cleared Congress.
Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), a strong backer of enforcement, said Thursday that the administration is wrongly taking credit for removing people who were caught at the border.
"The painful irony is that the administration's catch-and-release policy—explained as an effort to focus removals on only the top-shelf priority cases—often means waiting until an illegal alien commits a violent offense and receives a felony criminal conviction before taking steps to remove that alien from the country," he said in an email message.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com