The Obama administration on Thursday announced that it deported 368,644 undocumented immigrants from the country during the 2013 fiscal year.
That's a decrease from the 409,849 removals during fiscal year 2012. But that didn’t stop advocates for immigration reform from immediately criticizing the president for his administration’s continued record-setting deportations. In 2011, about 397,000 people were deported.
The administration has said repeatedly that it focuses its efforts on removing criminals first.
“Overall, [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] conducted 216,810 removals of convicted criminals in FY 2013, the highest percentage of removals (59 percent) recorded for the previous five fiscal years,” a fact sheet from Immigration and Customs Enforcement stated.
But several immigrants’ rights groups have challenged that claim.
“People on all sides will look at these numbers with a great deal of skepticism. It’s easy for the Administration to say that those deported fit their priorities when this White House has practically made sneezing a criminal act for immigrants,” Pablo Alvarado, the executive director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said in a statement.
Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a group that advocates for immigration reform, said the statistics are more offensive because Congress missed an opportunity to overhaul the country’s immigration system this year.
“What the President and new DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson should do is stop deporting people who are eligible for immigration status under pending legislation and tell ICE to stop ripping hard working immigrants away from their families and jobs,” Sharry said in a statement.
Republicans aren’t likely to cheer the statistics, either. Despite increased removals, conservative lawmakers, including Gov. Rick Perry, have lambasted the president for what they say is his administration’s failure to secure the border.
“Successful border security isn’t about deportations – it’s about making sure our borders are not porous and vulnerable to illegal activity,” Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said in an email.
Mexico was home to more deported immigrants than any other country: 241,493. That was followed by Guatemala with 47,769; Honduras with 37,049; and El Salvador with 21,602. The Dominican Republic rounded out the top five with 2,462.
Thursday’s announcement by the DHS comes the same week that the Pew Research Center revealed that some minority groups favor fewer deportations over comprehensive immigration reform.
“By 55 percent to percent, Hispanics say that they think being able to live and work in the United States legally without the threat of deportation is more important for unauthorized immigrants than a pathway to citizenship,” researchers wrote. “Asian Americans hold a similar view, albeit by a smaller margin — 49 percent to 44 percent.”