When President Obama decided to delay his plans to unilaterally implement immigration reforms, immigrant advocates slammed him as the "deporter-in-chief." Yet according to an analysis from the Associated Press, the president has quietly slowed deportations by nearly 20 percent in about the past year.
The Homeland Security Department is now on pace to remove the fewest number of immigrants since 2007.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for deportations, sent home 258,608 immigrants between the start of the budget year last Oct. 1 and July 28 this summer, a decrease of nearly 20 percent from the same period in 2013, when 320,167 people were removed.
Over 10 months in 2012, ICE deported 344,624 people, some 25 percent more than this year, according to federal figures obtained by the AP.
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The president has been mulling executive action to grant deportation relief to some undocumented immigrants in the United States and strengthen border security resources. In June, he announced that he'd asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to present a list of executive actions he could take within the scope of his authority to modernize and streamline U.S. immigration policy.
Mr. Obama previously signaled he would move on the issue by the end of summer, but earlier this month, he announced he would delay any action until after the congressional elections in November. The White House suggested that Republicans' "extreme politicization of the issue" would harm the policymaking.
"The reality the President has had to weigh is that we're in the midst of the political season, and because of the Republicans' extreme politicization of this issue, the President believes it would be harmful to the policy itself and to the long-term prospects for comprehensive immigration reform to announce administrative action before the elections," a White House official explained.
There are two principal reasons fewer immigrants already are being deported:
-The Obama administration decided as early as summer 2011 to focus its deportation efforts on criminal immigrants or those who posed a threat to national security or public safety. Many others who crossed into the United States illegally or overstayed their visas and could be subject to deportation are stuck in a federal immigration court system. Last month the backlog in that system exceeded 400,000 cases for the first time, according to court data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. For each case, it now takes several years for a judge to issue a final order to leave the U.S.
-As Border Patrol agents detain more people from countries in Central America, not Mexico, the volume and circumstances of the cases take more time for overwhelmed immigration officials and courts to process because, among other reasons, the U.S. must fly such immigrants home rather than letting them walk back across the border into Mexico. A surge in the number of immigrant families, mostly women and young children, has swamped temporary holding facilities, leading the Homeland Security Department to release many people into the U.S. interior with instructions to report back to authorities later.
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