Despite an increase in the rate of apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the border, the number of people the Obama administration deported last year plunged, according to data obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper cites a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement draft report that found, for the year ending on Sept. 30, the Obama administration removed 315,943 people. That’s down 14 percent from the previous year and is the fewest deported by the Obama administration to date.
The paper’s report further revealed that the 213,719 removals of those apprehended at the border while trying to illegally enter the U.S. amounted to a nine percent decline from the year before.
Interior removals experienced the greatest decline. The draft report reveals that just 102,224 people were removed and of that 85 percent were individuals convicted of a crime.
The level of interior removals, according to the Times represented a 23 percent decline over last year and “fewer than half the number of people deported in 2011.”
The numbers come as President Obama has taken substantial steps to further reduce deportations of illegal immigrants — by imposing additional restrictions on enforcement of immigration law and granting legal status and work permits to millions of illegal immigrants.
And while the number of removals declined, the total apprehensions at the border increased 15 percent with nearly a half million people caught trying to illegally enter the U.S.
The decline in removals last year was due, however, not simply to the administration’s enforcement priorities — which place a focus on removing criminals and recent border crossers rather than undocumented immigrants who are not convicted of crimes outside of their immigration status — The LA Times reports that the border surge of unaccompanied illegal minors from Central America played a factor.
The paper explained that the influx of UACs was a factor not just in the increase of border apprehensions, but also the lower level of removals:
[T]he increase was entirely due to a rush of people coming from countries other than Mexico, notably Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to a copy of a Border Patrol report also obtained by The Times. People from countries other than Mexico accounted for more than half of all apprehensions, up from about a third in 2013. That means putting more people on airplanes — and more delays.
Further, the report notes that another reason for the decline in interior removals has been due to fewer localities holding criminal aliens for immigration charges:
Deportations move much faster for immigrants who are in detention, but the agency said it often had to release people to make room for recent border crossers and more dangerous detainees. Others are released after legally required bond hearings. In the 2014 report, the agency said it released about 127,000 people, including 30,862 convicted criminals — a point that drew criticism at a hearing of [the House Homeland Security] committee this week.