US Deportations Have Reached Historic Levels

The United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) announced on Tuesday that it has deported nearly 400,000 persons in the last fiscal year, the largest number of deportations in history for the US.  Of those deported, about 55% had been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, and increase of 89% from 3 years ago and indicative of the agencies commitment to removing individuals that fall into “priority areas” such as lawbreakers and threats to national security.  ICE is boasting of the progress it is making in removing aliens that fall into these priority areas which also include recent border crossers, egregious immigration violators and immigration fugitives.  According to ICE, 90% of the deportations fell into a priority category.

The ACLU, however, is not so thrilled with these statistics and strongly criticized the Obama administration’s commitment to the use of deportation.  They described the 1.2 million deportations during the course of the administration as leaving a “wake of devastation” across Latino communities.  Joanne Lin, legislative counsel for the ACLU, said the deportations are unnecessary and waste of taxpayer money as immigration rates are down and the number of undocumented aliens has decreased substantially (sidebar: how can they have numbers on undocumented aliens if they are in fact undocumented?).

In another twist, Homeland Security has announced that they will review 300,000 deportation cases pending in federal immigration courts and suspend those of lower priority.  While the ACLU approves this solution, critics label it a “back-door amnesty program aimed at skirting the nation’s immigration laws.”

How much weight should we give the criticisms of the ACLU to the deportations?  In the case of illegal immigrants, do they have a right to be in this country?  I find it difficult to disagree with the ICE objective of targeting certain priority deportations, especially given the overcrowding in prisons and reality that prisoners are in fact being released early because there is simply no room.  Doesn’t the United States have a right to control what foreigners may enter and/or live in this country?  These policies may be disruptive of the Latino community, but if the individuals being deported are illegal in the first place, aren’t they being disruptive in society and drawing on taxpayer resources in other areas?

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  1. During my undergraduate career, I was able to intern at a government office. For the sake of internship confidentiality, I am not going to describe the department any more than that. On one of the days towards the end of my internship, one of the people came in for a group meeting and ended up being taken away by immigration. Personally, I thought this was a little extreme considering the lower nature of his offense and considering the fact that there were other people with illegal statuses that had committed far worse crimes. In fact, there was one in particular who had just committed another fairly serious crime about a month before and even with his long history immigration decided not to touch him. Moreover, when talking to my internship coordinator, she told me that she was upset as well for the same reasons I was and becuase the man was trying hard to work out his problems so that he could better support his wife and young child. As such, while I admit that this is a very narrow incident, I don’t think the system of targeted deportation is being used very effectively or fairly.

  2. I understand the ACLU’s argument. Deportation can be devastating to immigrant families. However, their criticism of the Obama administration’s use of the tactic doesn’t seem to hold much water. The Constitution specifically states that the President must “take care that the laws are faithfully executed.” This certainly seems to be exactly what he is doing here.

    I understand that the United States is a land of immigrants, and that many of the people in this country illegally want nothing more than a better life for their families. My grandparents were part of a massive wave of immigrants who came to this country in the early 20th century and sought the same opportunity. Immigrants are critical to the economic vitality of this country and contribute to the overall diversity that make this country great. However, there is a process and procedure that needs to be followed and respected in order to reap the opportunities and benefits that are available to people in this country. Bottom line, if you’re not following that procedure then you’re breaking the law.

    Worse yet, are those who are here illegally and committing other crimes. ICE, the agency entrusted with enforcing many of our immigration laws, should be targeting these individuals. In my humble opinion, if you’re here illegally and not being a productive part of our society then you don’t deserve the right to be here in the first place.

  3. Institutions like ICE are merely fulfilling their directives when conducting deportations. These organizations do not have the authority, and for good reason, to determine who should be allowed to stay and who must leave. Targeting high risk illegal immigrants is not an individual decision; it is a policy directive from the Office of Homeland Security. For organizations like ICE, deportation rules have to be strictly adhered to. Accordingly, the determination that the policy is unjust or discriminatory is for the legislature or the courts.

    The ACLU is in a difficult position to try and change the accepted “punishment” for an unpopular “crime.” The best way for them to go about it is to personalize the issue like Matthew did in his comment. As a national policy, we are all fine with deportations, but when we see the effects in our personal lives, we question the morality of it.

    The other question is how will this affect the President’s support from the Latino community? While he has done a lot to advance the Latino cause, this report could be bad timing for the upcoming election.

  4. I really cannot give much weight to the ACLU’s arguments. Even though some of the United States’ immigration laws do need to be improved, I see no issue with the government targeting immigrants based on priority categories. In a time when financial resources are tight, and illegal immigration is the norm, it makes sense for the ICE to focus its resources on categories of illegal immigrants that will have a negative impact on our society. If the deportation rate is increasing only or mostly for the reason that the United States is deporting more criminals, then what is the problem? As Brian previously noted, “if you’re here illegally and not being a productive part of our society then you don’t deserve to be here in the first place.” I also fail to see how these deportations, according to the ACLU, are “uncontrolled, unwarranted spending of taxpayer’s money by the Department of Homeland Security.” The government is going to spend money and deportation no matter what. It seems that this priority system is the most efficient way to weed out the individuals that really should not be in this country in the first place, and are not contributing anything positive to society. Lastly, the ACLU states, “the record breaking deportation numbers…come at a time when violent crime rates are at their lowest levels in 40 years.” Isn’t it possible and even likely that the deportation of more criminals has an effect on the violent crime rate and thus caused it to decrease?

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