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Donald Trump Is Not Deporting Immigrants As Fast As His Predecessors

Alex Nowrasteh

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a report detailing deportations (henceforth “removals”) conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the fiscal year 2019. The DHS report divides removals into two categories based on the arresting agency: those removed from the interior of the United States and those removed from the border. Interior removals are those who are initially arrested by ICE and then subsequently removed. Border removals are individuals initially apprehended by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer while they attempted to illegally enter the United States. Those apprehended by CBP are still called removals because they are turned over to ICE who subsequently remove them. To a large degree, border apprehensions are independent of a president’s immigration enforcement policies because factors outside of the United States also influence whether people decide to come in large numbers. However, interior immigration enforcement is much more under the president’s control. Thus, it is important to separate border removals and interior removals when gauging the extent and effectiveness of interior immigration enforcement.

In 2019, ICE deported 85,958 illegal immigrants from the interior of the United States, down about 10 percent from 95,360 in 2018. Annual removals from the interior of the United States peaked at 237,941 in 2011 during the Obama administration (Figure 1). The Trump administration would have to increase the pace of interior removals dramatically to reach Obama’s previous peak. That is unlikely to occur because local law enforcement agencies are much less likely to cooperate with President Trump’s ICE than they were with President Obama’s ICE. Sanctuary policies have an unclear (probably null) effect on crime, but they do reduce deportations. Beginning in 2012, border removals have outnumbered those from the interior of the United States. 

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