Not only has the Department of Homeland Security referred more immigration-related cases for prosecution under President Obama than under his predecessor, but it has also removed more aliens than the Bush administration did, even in its busiest years. A report released today from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University shows that during the first nine months of 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, removed 279,035 non-citizens, compared to 254,763 for the same time period in 2008.
The totals include what ICE refers to as "returns," which are described by TRAC as “voluntary returns, voluntary departures and withdrawals under docket control.” The majority of the removals, however, are cases where the immigrant is barred from re-entry for a number of years or even permanently. The removal numbers also focus solely on ICE activity and do not include removals that fall under the U.S. Border Patrol's purview.
The data comes after last month’s report that indicated cases referred to for prosecution by ICE and Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, have reached their highest levels since Bush was at the helm. The Texas Tribune reported last week: "The 4,145 cases referred for prosecution in March and April of 2010 by [ICE] marked the highest total since 2005, when the agency was created … and CBP also saw its largest spike since the Bush era in March and April, with 14,912 cases referred for prosecution — the highest since September and October of 2008.”
The removal data also reflects that the Obama administration has continued to prosecute and remove aliens in the United States who have committed serious crimes, and not solely those who entered illegally or who entered legally and overstayed a visa.
Of the 279,035 removed, 136,714, or about half, were convicted criminal aliens. The figure represents a 60-percent increase from the same time frame in 2008 and a 58-percent jump from the Obama administration's first year. And while criminal-alien removals have increased, non-criminal removals have dipped. During the first nine months of the current fiscal year, 142,321 non-criminal aliens had been removed, a 30-percent drop from 202,371 removed in the same time frame in 2009. Those figures are based on alien-by-alien removal records provided to TRAC by ICE. The report also lists a second set of numbers, ICE’s summary figures, for 2009. The TRAC estimates that both reports agree as to the totals, but not the criminal composition of the aliens removed. An estimated 2,000 individuals were shifted from the non-criminal column to the criminal column every month, but ICE fails to disclose the reasons for the classification change.
That report led TRAC to call for more transparency from the agency and for a better explanation of its classification criteria.
Read the full report here.