Has the Obama administration slacked off on a promise to deport illegal aliens involved in criminal activity — or just having trouble finding any? When running for his second term, Barack Obama responded to pressure from Hispanic voters by promising to end the spike in deportations that had begun under George W. Bush and crescendoed in his first term. On that point Obama has delivered, as the Associated Press reports that deportations have fallen to a nine-year low:
The Obama administration deported fewer immigrants over the past 12 months than at any time since 2006, according to government figures obtained by The Associated Press.
Deportations of criminal immigrants have fallen to the lowest levels since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, despite his pledge to focus on finding and deporting criminals living in the country illegally. The share of criminal immigrants deported in relation to overall immigrants deported rose slightly, from 56 percent to 59 percent.
The overall total of 231,000 deportations generally does not include Mexicans who were caught at the border and quickly returned home by the U.S. Border Patrol. The figure does include roughly 136,700 convicted criminals deported in the last 12 months. Total deportations dropped 42 percent since 2012.
However, at the same time, Obama promised to refocus deportation efforts on criminals and national-security risks. So did Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last year in a Congressional hearing. How has that worked out?
The biggest surprise in the figures was the decline in criminal deportations. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last year directed immigration authorities anew to focus on finding and deporting immigrants who pose a national security or public safety threat, those who have serious criminal records or those who recently crossed the Mexican border. The decline suggests the administration has been failing to find criminal immigrants in the U.S. interior, or that fewer immigrants living in the U.S. illegally had criminal records serious enough to justify deporting them.
It’s possible that the result of earlier deportations was to thin out the ranks of criminals among the illegal immigrants that remain in the US. It’s also possible that the DHS isn’t looking too hard for them. The AP’s Alicia Caldwell offers both as a possibility, as well as the fact that it’s easier to deport Mexican nationals across the border than it is to fly home Central American illegals, which is what’s required. Over the last couple of years, illegal immigration across the southern border has involved more of the latter than the former. However, Caldwell also notes that arrests have dropped significantly over the same period, too.
Clearly, though, the White House hasn’t made enforcement a big priority in the last couple of years. Don’t expect it to get much better if the GOP fails to win the presidency in 2016 either, as Hillary Clinton scolded Obama this week for being too tough on enforcement:
Obama started out his presidency by deporting record numbers of immigrants in what ended up being a failed effort to convince Republicans to agree to immigration reform. But in an interview that aired Sunday and Monday with Telemundo News’ María Celeste Arrarás, Clinton said she wouldn’t go that route.
The former secretary of state promised to push for comprehensive immigration reform “as soon as” she gets into office.
“In the meantime, I’m not gonna be breaking up families,” she continued, according to a transcript provided by the network. “And I think that is one of the differences. But I totally understand why the Obama administration felt as though they did what they did under the circumstances. But I think we’ve learned that the Republicans, at least the current crop, are just not acting in good faith.”
Obama made it plain with his executive actions on DACA and DAPA that he won’t be prioritizing deportations, either. Hillary’s promising even less enforcement — and also without Congressional approval.