It’s become clear over the last few months that something very funny is going on with immigration enforcement statistics (here, here, and here). The data generally show that interior enforcement, what most people commonly think of as “deportations” (but also includes I-9, Secure Communities, and E-Verify), has declined as a percentage of total removals. Many of the removals appear to be unlawful immigrants apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and then turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for removal – a trend that began in 2012 and accelerated in 2013. That transfer makes it appear as if there was more internal enforcement than there really was. The administration is therefore deporting an increasing number of recent border crossers and a decreasing number of unlawful immigrants apprehended in the interior.
It appears, then, that President Obama’s reputation for severe interior enforcement was earned for 2009, 2010, and 2011 but is somewhat unjustified in 2012 and 2013. The Bipartisan Policy Center has an excellent report on the enormous court backlogs and other issues that have arisen due to interior immigration enforcement. I’m waiting for additional information from a FOIA request before wading into the data surrounding the interior versus border removals controversy because we do not have data on internal enforcement numbers prior to 2008.
Interior enforcement is only part of the government’s immigration enforcement strategy and must also be looked at as a component of broader immigration enforcement that includes border enforcement.