December 14, 2018 4:23PM

Trump Administration Continues to Expand Interior Immigration Enforcement

Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report detailing deportations (henceforth “removals”) conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during fiscal year 2018. This post present data on removals in historical context – combined with information from Pew and the Center for Migration Studies on the number of illegal immigrants present in the United States

ICE deported 95,360 illegal immigrants from the interior of the United States in 2018, up from 81,603 in 2017. Removals from the interior peaked during the Obama administration in 2011 at 237,941 (Figure 1). The Trump administration would have to increase the pace of interior removals dramatically to reach Obama’s previous peak. Unless something dramatic changes, that won’t happen as local law enforcement agencies are much less likely to cooperate with President Trump’s ICE than they were with President Obama’s ICE. ICE also removes large numbers of illegal immigrants apprehended at the border. Since 2012, border removals have outnumbered those from the interior of the United States.

Figure 1 Interior and Border Removals by ICE, 2008–2018

Source: Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Obama administration removed 1,242,486 from the interior of the United States during its full eight years, averaging 155,311 removals per year. Data from the earlier Bush administration are more speculative, but they show an increase in deportations during the last half of Bush’s administration that continued during Obama’s first term before flattening and, finally, dropping rapidly in his second term.

The percentage of all illegal immigrants removed from the United States is a better measure of the intensity of interior enforcement than the total numbers removed. Based on estimates of the total size of the illegal immigrant population from Pew, ICE removed about 0.89 percent of the illegal immigrant resident population from the interior of the United States in 2018, up from 0.76 percent in 2017. Interior removals as a percent of the illegal immigrant population peaked at 2.11 percent in 2009.

Figure 2 Removals as a Percent of the Illegal Immigrant Population

Sources: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Pew, and Author’s Estimates.

ICE under President Obama’s administration removed an average of 1.38 percent of the interior illegal immigrant population per year of his presidency. The Obama administration’s interior removal statistics show a downward trend beginning in 2011 and continued until the end of his administration. So far, ICE under President Trump has only managed to deport an average of 0.83 percent of the illegal immigrant population each year.

The Obama administration also focused immigration enforcement on criminal offenders (not all illegal immigrants are criminals). During the Obama administration, 52.6 percent of all illegal immigrants removed were convicted criminals, including those convicted of immigration crimes. About 57 percent of those deported during the Trump were convicted criminals.

Figure 3 Criminal Removals as a Percent of All Removals
Source: Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Trump administration is continuing to ramp up interior immigration enforcement. The 2018 figures show a reversal of the declining interior immigration enforcement efforts under the Obama administration, but they have not reached Obama’s previous deportation records. Trump is unlikely to come close, but he will continue to try.