The number of immigrants deported from the U.S. fell 14 percent for the year ending Sept. 30, even as the number of people caught crossing the border grew, the Los Angeles Times reports.
A draft ICE report shows immigration officials deported 315,943 people over the preceding year, the lowest one-year total since President Obama took office.
Meanwhile, about 102,000 immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least a few years were deported, mostly after being caught up in the criminal justice system. The so-called interior removals were down 23% from the year before, and were 50% less than in 2011.
The Border Patrol claimed that almost 500,000 people attempted to cross the border illegally between Sept. 30, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014, 15% more than the year before. Roughly two-thirds of immigrants that were apprehended were repatriated to their home countries, but the number of the immigrants sent back declined 9% from 2013.
ICE stated that the reason there were fewer repatriated immigrants was its focus on the massive influx of children illegally crossing the border in Texas and Arizona. Gillian Christensen, the agency’s press secretary, defended the agency, saying, “ICE remains focused on smart and effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of convicted criminals and recent border entrants. There is no set mandated removal number.” John Sandweg, former ICE director, protested, “It has nothing to do with a political calculus. It has everything to do with what happens on the border.”
In 2014, 85% of illegal immigrants removed from the interior had been convicted of a crime, the majority of them felonies or a minimum of three misdemeanors. ICE reported that it had released 127,000 people in 2014, including 30,862 convicted criminals. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) blasted, “That further erodes the trust of the American people. The American people want to see border security. They want to see deportations.”
Fox News reported this week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been sued by a federal immigration attorney who claimed the agency purged officials who disagreed with its policies. The attorney, Patricia Vroom, wrote: “It was part of an orchestrated, coordinated effort…to purge [the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, OPLA] of senior Chief Counsel so that much younger, much less experienced, and thus much more impressionable individuals who were beholden to them, could be installed in their place.”