Deportations are down because of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, because of sanctuary cities and because local authorities are refusing to honor federal immigration “detainer” requests, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official testified Thursday.
Obama’s “executive actions narrowed my target pool,” Thomas Homan, the executive associate director of ICE’s Enforcement And Removal Operations, told a hearing held by the Senate’s subcommittee on immigration and the national interest.
“We focus our attention on all three enumerated [White House] priorities which include — most importantly — criminal aliens, national security and recent border entrants,” he said. The term, “recent border entrants,” excludes illegal immigrants who entered before January 1, 2014.
Homan said the decline is also caused by sanctuary cities and jurisdictions that ignore federal request to detain illegals held in local jails.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the chairman of the subcommittee, however, pushed back on the detainer claim. He said the number of ICE detainer requests have declined from 282,000 in 2012 down to 96,000 in FY 2015.
That’s a 66 percent decrease in deportations since 2012.
Homan said the executive actions also limited detainer request to state and local jailhouses. “The detainer rules have changed with the executive actions. Now to put a detainer on an individual, we have to meet one of the priorities and for a crime they have to be convicted of a crime,” Homan said, noting that the policy changed in 2015 because of Obama’s 2014 executive actions.
Homan, when pressed by Sessions, acknowledged that under the law, any alien in the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation.
“It’s not true then that the reason your [deportation] numbers are down is because you don’t have people to deport,” Sessions said. “You have them to deport, but you have [White House] policies that tell you not to deport whole categories of people that are here unlawfully.”
“That is a factor,” Homan responded.
The Obama administration has repeatedly said it lacks the resources to fully enforce immigration law and only can deport 400,000 aliens annually. Despite the claim, ICE’s budget for removals has increased 25 percent since FY 2012 — $2,750,843,000 in FY2012 to $3,431,444,000 in FY2015.
During that same time, the number of removals decreased by 43 percent, from 409,849 alien removals to just 235,413 aliens removed in FY 2015.