More Evidence Refutes “Record Deportations” MSM Myth

Everybody has an opinion about immigration, but most people know nothing substantial, beyond a few canonical-boilerplate bromides:

Then there are specific false "facts"—the opposite of Hate Facts, should we call them Good Lies? PC Factoids? Myth Memess? [ suggestions here please]—that come and go, depending upon the political season and the needs of the Treason Lobby. One has been repeated ceaselessly during the last couple of years to soften up our inattentive and gullible fellow citizens for a final, ruinous mass Amnesty: the claim that the Obama Administration is deporting illegal aliens at a record rate.’s James Fulford recently refuted this here. But it popped up again immediately, e.g., in George Will's view-from-Olympus diktat on immigration for Republican lawmakers [Why immigration reform matters February 13, 2014], in an ill-informed and tendentious op-ed by David Nakamura, whoever he is, at the Washington Post [For more than 25 years, it’s never been the right time for immigration reform, February 5, 2014] as well as earlier in the headline of a February 5 Fox News Latino (urrrp!) article: Despite Record Deportations On His Watch, Republicans Don't Trust Obama On Enforcement.

The claim results from the administration's book-cooking. Border Patrol [BP] agents, who operate around the country's periphery between the various entry ports, and Customs and Border Protection officers, who man the ports, airports, and border portals, "return" many illegal crossers right back across the border when they’re caught. This stream of evicted illegal used to be counted separately. Now this same stream is laundered through Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] to bulk up ICE's aggregate "removal" numbers, which are what the Administration has been touting.

The year-by-year numbers are available from an October 2013 "backgrounder, Deportation Numbers Unwrapped [link; PDF], by Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies [CIS]. Her data are taken from "mostly unpublished internal Department of Homeland Security [DHS] and ICE statistics."

However, a skeptical correspondent of mine pushed to see whatever "raw" figures were directly available online in official government documents. Using three such sources (see below), unearthed by one or other of us, I assembled the results for 2008 through 2013 into the following table of "removal" statistics for ICE:

Federal fiscal year

Total removals

Removals taken over from BP/CBP

Difference [i.e. removals from interior]

























(In the table, the removal numbers are in thousands. All three 2012 numbers come from Vaughan's paper, since the three sources I worked from had only partial FY2012 figures. For the five other years, my sources yielded values for total removals and/or for removals taken over from BP/CBP, with subtraction yielding the differences in the rightmost column).

From the "Difference" column we see that, in fact, ICE's removal rate from the country's interior (i.e. what people generally associate with the word "deportation") is down by 40% since 2011.

So I am providing independent confirmation of Vaughan’s finding. Our figures agree within a few thousand, plus-or-minus.

My three sources:

As Vaughan emphasizes, the decrease in deportations from the country's interior happened while the Secure Communities program, under which jurisdictions automatically notify ICE about illegal aliens following their arrests by local law enforcement, was being ramped up.

Secure Communities referrals of illegal aliens to ICE rapidly increased from 95,000 in 2009 to well above 400,000 in 2013 (see Table 7 of Vaughan's Backgrounder). Yet deportations of illegal aliens identified via Secure Communities, after increasing rapidly from 2009 through 2012, actually decreased from 2012 to 2013…from 84,000 to 70,000, or about 16%.

Having read a lot and having spent significant time on the phone with Ms. Vaughan, I can attest that this subject is made daunting, in part, by its (perhaps intentional!) obscurantist official and semi-official lingo—returns, removals, deportations, voluntary returns, voluntary departures, withdrawals under docket control, geesh!—that, to make matters worse, often seems to be in flux.

Serious students of this subject should read both Vaughan's backgrounder and an earlier CIS backgrounder, Deportation Basics [link, PDF] by W.D. Reasoner.)

So I'll attempt to provide a clear picture at the end by quoting the penultimate paragraph from her Deportation Numbers Unwrapped Backgrounder:

The Obama administration has sought to portray its performance on immigration enforcement as smarter, better, and more successful than previous administrations'. To support this claim, it has presented a few statistical nuggets in clever packaging that have been artificially padded by transferring cases from the Border Patrol to ICE. To use the proverbial “apples and oranges” analogy, the Obama administration, in order to give the impression of a “record” apple harvest, has counted both apples (ICE cases) and oranges painted to look like apples (Border Patrol cases), while leaving a large number of actual apples on the trees.

Paul Nachman [email him] is a retired physicist and immigration sanity activist in Bozeman, MT.