Obama Deportations Definitely Not Record-Breaking

By Jessica Vaughan, December 26, 2013

In its first four years the Obama administration deported 3.2 million aliens, averaging just over 800,000 per year. Pro-amnesty advocacy groups, administration officials, lawmakers, and lazy reporters all have claimed this is a record, but it is not. In fact, according to historical DHS statistics, this is the lowest total and annual average since the mid-1970s.

Bloomberg News reporter Bill Selway wrote this last week:

The ordinances come as Obama's administration has faced pressure from Democratic lawmakers and Hispanic backers to scale back deportations, which hit a record 409,900 in the 2012 budget year. During his five years in office, the Obama administration has sent 1.93 million people back to their home countries, close to what President George W. Bush did in eight years and nearly as many as in the 108 years before Bush took office.

The statistic in the first sentence refers to the number of deportations claimed by ICE for 2012, not total deportations. In order to achieve this "record," ICE juiced its numbers by counting certain Border Patrol cases as ICE removals, which had not been done in prior years. (Border Patrol deportations are usually counted as "returns".) So ICE's deportation record under the Obama administration is about as valid as Barry Bonds' home run record.

Because the Obama administration has blurred the lines of which agencies can take credit for deportations, the only fair way to assess their performance is to count all deportations done by all the DHS agencies. These are reported every year in the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics in Table 39, which shows the number of "removals" and "returns" by all immigration enforcement agencies going back to 1927.

There we find that the total number of aliens "sent back" under first four years of the Obama administration is just over 3.2 million (not 1.93 million, as Selway wrote). This is an annual average of just over 800,000 sent back per year. Official numbers for 2013 have not been released yet, but the total will be about the same, with just over 400,000 Border patrol deportations and about 370,000 attributed to ICE.

That is nowhere near the totals under George Bush's administration, which were over 10.3 million total deportations with an annual average of 1.2 million (see the table below).

The real record for deportations belongs to the Clinton administration. Obama's total is lower than the last six administrations, even lower than Jimmy Carter's.

Sure, illegal border crossings, which generate the lion's share of all deportations, have slowed some during the Obama administration, and that's one reason why the Border Patrol is deporting fewer aliens, but the plain fact remains that the Obama administration has not deported more people than any recent previous administration – not even close. The other reason the Obama deportation numbers are low is because interior enforcement has been nearly dismantled due to executive-decree amnesties and so-called "prosecutorial discretion," which shields at least 90 percent of the illegal population from enforcement.

The most egregious reporting malpractice in Selway's article is the absurd claim that Obama's deportation numbers are "nearly as many as in the 108 years before Bush took office."

I expect the pro-amnesty advocacy groups to keep spouting bogus statistics to support their outrageous demands for an end to all deportations, but there's no excuse for reporters at national news organizations to keep accepting it at face value.