President Trump vowed to immediately deport “bad hombres” from the United States, but the latest statistics from federal immigration officials show that he is unlikely to meet his goal of expelling 2 million to 3 million criminals anytime soon.
In January, the United States deported 9,913 criminals. After a slight uptick under Trump, expulsions sank to 9,600 criminals in June, according to statistics requested by The Washington Post.
Mostly, deportations under the Trump administration have remained lower than in past years under the Obama administration. In the first six months of the year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 61,370 immigrants with criminal records, down from 70,603 in the same period last year.
Advocates on both sides of the immigration debate said they think that the Trump administration’s effort is still gathering steam and that ICE plans to expand deportations in the months ahead. Immigration arrests rose to 13,945 in June, 45 percent above January’s total.
“Deportations under Obama collapsed in the last few years, and turning that around isn’t just a question of snapping your fingers,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter controls on immigration. “Six months from now, we might see something very different.”
During the election campaign, Trump vowed to target criminals for deportation and warned that they would be “going out fast.” Later, he suggested he would try to find a solution for the “terrific people,” such as those with clean records, but that has not materialized.
While people with criminal records account for three-fourths of the 75,000 immigration arrests this year, the fastest-growing target under Trump are immigrants without criminal records.
About 19,700 immigrants with no criminal records were arrested in the first half of the year, more than double the number in the same period last year. ICE has said that anyone in the United States illegally is subject to deportation, unlike under President Obama, who had said immigrants with long-standing ties to the United States and clean records were not a priority for deportation.
John Sandweg, an acting director of ICE under Obama, said the Trump administration’s approach is likely sabotaging the president’s attempts to deport criminals by funneling more noncriminal cases into the clogged immigration courts, where some 600,000 cases are pending.
“By focusing on noncriminal cases, you’re burning resources that would otherwise be dedicated to criminals,” he said. “There are only so many seats on the bus.”
Another major reason for the decline in deportations is that illegal border crossings have plunged since Trump took office, he said. Immigrants caught at the border accounted for more than half of deportations under the Obama administration since 2012, according to ICE records.
Overall, officials deported more than 105,000 immigrants in the first half of this year, 42 percent of whom had no criminal records, down from 121,170 in the same period last year.
Some advocates say Trump’s jarring rhetoric may prompt some immigrants to leave on their own.
His administration has attacked sanctuary cities, localities that refuse to detain immigrants to be picked up by federal authorities, and has embraced legislation that would curb legal and illegal immigration. And he has floated the possibility that hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants protected from deportation under Obama might lose their permission to stay in the United States.
Texas and other states have threatened to sue the Trump administration by Sept. 5 if it does not stop renewing work permits for nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States since childhood. And Haitians, one of the first groups that could lose temporary protection granted after a devastating 2010 earthquake in the Caribbean country, are streaming into Canada.
“It’s pretty clear that they are moving inexorably to ramping up deportations by getting just about whoever they get their hands on,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a nonprofit that advocates for immigrants.
ICE released the arrest and deportation figures late Thursday, two days after the Justice Department announced that from February to July, immigration courts ordered 57,069 people to leave the United States, a nearly 31 percent increase over the same period last year.
However, Justice officials have not said how many of the immigrants ordered deported were actually in custody — or whether their whereabouts are even known. Every year, thousands of immigrants are ordered deported in absentia, meaning that they did not attend their hearings and could not immediately be removed from the country.
Immigration arrest and court records are generally not available to the public, so the government’s statistics could not be independently verified.