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A Closer Look at U.S. Deportation Numbers

A Closer Look at U.S. Deportation Numbers

Posted by Matthew Green | Mar 04, 2014 | 0 Comments

In December 2013, the U.S. government shared its deportation statistics for that year. According to the report, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) conducted a total of 368,644 removals in 2013. That number breaks down like this:

  1. 133,551 of the removals were individuals who were apprehended in the U.S. interior;
  2. 235,093 of the removals were individuals who were apprehended while attempting to enter the U.S. without inspection;
  3. 59% of total ICE removals involved individuals who had been previously convicted of a crime;
  4. 98% of all removals that year met one or more of ICE's stated civil immigration enforcement priorities; and
  5. Of those removed who did not have a criminal conviction, 84% were apprehended at the border while attempting to enter the U.S. without inspection and 95% fell within one of ICE's stated immigration enforcement priorities.

But what do all these numbers really mean? It's fairly difficult to really investigate the truth behind these numbers because ICE uses vague category levels related to criminal convictions (i.e., Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3). For instance, ICE reports that 74,159 of the convicted criminals removed were Level 1 offenders, 47,198 were Level 2 offenders and 95,453 were Level 3 offenders.

ICE defines these categories in the following manner:

  • Level 1: Aliens who are convicted of “aggravated felonies,” or two or more crimes each punishable by more than one year, commonly known as “felonies.”
  • Level 2: Aliens who are convicted of any other felony or three or more crimes each punishable by less than one year, commonly known as “misdemeanors.”
  • Level 3: Aliens who are convicted of “misdemeanor” crime(s) punishable by less than one year.

Over the years, the Obama administration has stated that immigration enforcement is focused on “serious criminals.”  The numbers provided in this December 2013 report seem to go along with that policy. However, there is cause for concern when you look more closely at the details.

Recently, reports have been released which provide more insight into criminal categories used for immigration purposes. The number one crime is categorized as “immigration.” This category includes falsely claiming U.S. citizenship and entering or reentering the U.S. without inspection.

In fact, 24% of those classified as “criminal aliens” had only these kinds of immigration violations listed as their most serious conviction. The next most common category of convictions is “criminal traffic offenses.” This classification accounts for 23% of the total convictions.

Another important consideration is the fact that crossing the border without inspection was only recently made a criminal offense. This violation is now the most prosecuted federal crime. These are not serious criminals!

In many cases, these are immigrants with minor or no criminal history who are only attempting to come to the U.S. in order to be reunited with family members. In the end, it seems that the public is being misled as to immigration enforcement numbers. It doesn't seem right for the government to refer to those who are just hoping to start a better life in the U.S. as “serious criminals.”

What do you think of the recent reports that have been released by ICE and other immigration agencies? Is this just another problem related to the struggle for immigration reform or is it something that stands on its own?

About the Author

Matthew Green

Managing Partner. Green | Evans-Schroeder (formerly Law Offices of Matthew H. Green) focuses on the aggressive defense of immigrants. A native of Arizona, Mr. Green understands the difficulties that immigrants and families of immigrants face when a loved one is charged with a crime. He knows how frightening it can be for some...


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