The Obama administration deported about 369,000 undocumented immigrants during fiscal year 2013, a 10 percent drop from last year when a record 410,000 were removed from the country, according to new statistics from the Department of Homeland Security.
The annual number of deportations have been closely watched by both immigration proponents and those opposed to relaxing rules for people who have come across the border illegally, and the new figures are likely to provoke debate as the White House and congressional Democrats, along with some Republicans, continue to push for an overhaul to immigration laws.
In recent years, the Obama administration has pointed to the rising number of deportation as evidence that it is vigorously enforcing border control laws, even as the president has supported legislation that would offer a path to citizenship for most of the nation's 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants.
In June 2012, Obama announced an administrative action to defer deportations for young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally by their parents. More than 400,000 people have been granted deferred action under that program, according to Homeland Security.
The administration is "enforcing our nation's laws in a smart and effective way, meeting our enforcement priorities by focusing on convicted criminals while also continuing to secure our nation's borders," John Sandweg, the acting director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement.
The Republican-controlled House has declined to support a Senate plan that features a 13-year path to citizenship. GOP opponents have said that people who break the law by entering the country illegally should not be rewarded, considering millions of people are on waiting lists to enter the country through legal means.
Meantime, immigration advocates have pressed Obama to do more to halt deportations. In all, the Obama administration has deported nearly 2 million people during the president’s five years in office. Obama has said he cannot do more to halt deportations because of requirements under federal law.
Eddie Carmona of the PICO National Network, which supports allowing undocumented immigrants a chance to gain citizenship, called the deportation numbers "infuriating."
"How much longer do we have to stand by and watch our families get torn apart?" he said in a statement.