Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released figures showing that they deported fewer people during FY2013 than any year since FY2008 –368,644. But that number is still higher than at any time during the Bush administration despite the unauthorized immigrant population peaking in 2007. Just eyeballing the bottom graph confirms that the level of deportations is largely explained by the size of the unauthorized immigrant population (R-Squared=.813). The more unauthorized immigrants there were, the higher the number of deportations.
Source: Department of Homeland Security and author’s estimate.
So how does Obama’s enforcement record compare to the years before he took office? Is he under-enforcing or over-enforcing immigration laws relative to what we’d expect given the size of the unauthorized immigrant population?
President Obama is over-enforcing immigration laws. During his administration a yearly average of 3.37 percent of all unauthorized immigrants have been deported every year compared to just 2.3 percent during President George W. Bush’s administration. It is true that deportation as a percent of the unauthorized immigrant population have slackened in 2013 but that is still above any year during the Bush administration.