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Immigration Courts and Deportations Fall From Obama-Era Highs Under Trump Administration

— August 9, 2017

A surprising set of figures recently released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows that deportations under President Trump are proceeding at a much slower pace than they were under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The agency’s records show that, between February 1st and June 30th, ICE officials detained and deported 84,473 people.

Effectively, immigration officials have been removing undocumented aliens and foreign-born criminals at a rate of approximately 16,900 per month.

Under the Obama administration, about 20,000 deportations were carried monthly through the end of the 2016 fiscal year.

Unless the White House and its agency-allies see a surge in arrests and removals, Donald Trump’s ‘tough on immigration’ stance could be compromised by a failure to surpass the precedent set by his predecessor.

While ICE was deporting nearly 34,000 people per month in 2012, the slow-down doesn’t necessarily mean that Donald Trump is abandoning one of his campaign’s longest-running promises. Immigration courts across the United States are suffering from a severe backlog of cases, with judges struggling to cope with an uptick in law enforcement activity.

Despite an overall decrease in deportations, removal orders have risen by 31% in 2017 over last year.

The Transnational Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University offered an explanation for the Trump administration’s performance: just over 600,000 immigration cases are still waiting to be heard in courts nationwide.

“The courts are more paralyzed than ever,” said John Sandweg, who served as the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2013 through 2014.

An ICE agent arrests a Mexican national in California. Under President Trump, removal orders have increased by 31% over 2016’s figures. Image courtesy of Lucy Nicholson, Reuters, via

Many of the backlogged cases came into being as scores of Central Americans fled gang violence in countries like Honduras and El Salvador.

Large criminal syndicates like MS-13 are responsible for much of the unrest. The group – also referred to as Mara Salvatrucha – has carried out massacres in El Salvador as well as the United States, with innocent people often running afoul of the gang’s unscrupulous tactics.

The Trump administration has justified its current crackdown on so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ by citing crimes committed by MS-13.

In late July, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions implied that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s reimplemented sanctuary city policy was opening his constituents to victimization by MS-13. Shortly after delivering his remarks, Sessions flew to El Salvador to investigate the gang’s origins.

While the White House has claimed criminals and Maras as the focus of its deportation campaign, Sandweg says the courts’ paralysis may have to do with to do with the administration’s insistence on arresting noncriminal aliens along with dangerous offenders.

“When you go out and arrest a whole bunch of people willy-nilly, [the judge] has got to fill his docket time hearing those arguments,” he said.

Politico reports that the Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it has hired dozens of judges to help clear the backlog. The president’s proposed fiscal year budget for 2018 is requesting an additional 75 to continue operating efficiently.

The Justice Department said in a statement that it “is also reviewing internal practices, procedures, and technology in order to identify ways in which it can further enhance immigration judges’ productivity without compromising due process.”


Deportation levels under Trump are lower than ever during Obama era

Trump deportations lag behind Obama levels

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