Court Deportations Drop 43 Percent in Past Five Years

Julia Preston, New York Times, April 16, 2014

New deportation cases brought by the Obama administration in the nation’s immigration courts have been declining steadily since 2009, and judges have increasingly ruled against deportations, leading to a 43 percent drop in the number of deportations through the courts in the last five years, according to Justice Department statistics released on Wednesday.

The figures show that the administration opened 26 percent fewer deportation cases in the courts last year than in 2009. In 2013, immigration judges ordered deportations in 105,064 cases nationwide.

The statistics present a different picture of President Obama’s enforcement policies than the one painted by many immigrant advocates, who have assailed the president as the “deporter in chief” and accused him of rushing to reach a record of two million deportations. While Mr. Obama has deported more foreigners than any other president, the pace of deportations has recently declined.

The steepest drop in deportations filed in the courts came after 2011, when the administration began to apply more aggressively a policy of prosecutorial discretion that officials said would lead to fewer deportations of illegal immigrants who had no criminal record. Last year the Department of Homeland Security opened 187,678 deportation cases, nearly 50,000 fewer than in 2011.

At the same time, the share of cases in which judges decided against deportation and for allowing foreigners to remain in the United States has consistently increased, to about one-third last year from about one-fifth in 2009.


The number of deportations ordered by immigration courts is only a portion of total deportations in a given year. But the lower numbers from the courts contributed to a drop in overall deportations last year, when enforcement agents made 368,644 removals, a 10 percent decrease from 2012. Also, some deportations that judges order–for example, if the foreigner becomes a fugitive–may not be carried out.

In addition, since 2011 the administration made a major shift in enforcement geography, sending more agents and resources to the Southwest border to quickly remove immigrants caught crossing illegally. Many deportations at the border do not go through the immigration courts.


The substantial drop in new deportation cases has contributed to an overall 20 percent decline since 2011 in new matters coming before the long-overburdened immigration courts, the figures show. Deportations, known in legal language as removals, accounted for about 97 percent of the new cases received by the courts last year.

But the slowdown in new cases has not eased the vast backlog in the courts, which increased to 350,330 cases at the end of fiscal 2013, up from 298,063 cases at the end of fiscal 2011.

Court officials said the apparent paradox of a shrinking new caseload coinciding with a swelling backlog was primarily a result of the severe budget cuts, known as the sequester, imposed by Congress last year, which prevented the courts from hiring judges and support staff. The reduced corps of judges could not keep up with the new cases, much less dig into the backlog, court officials said.


The number of judges in the nation’s 58 immigration courts fell to 251 at the end of last year from a peak of 272 three years earlier.

Homeland Security officials said the court statistics reflected their efforts to focus on deporting convicted criminals, foreigners posing security threats and recent illegal border crossers.

“The administration has taken a number of steps to focus our resources on those priorities,” said Peter Boogaard, a department spokesman. He said “the exercise of prosecutorial discretion” had led enforcement agents and visa officials to file fewer deportation charges.

Deportations were further reduced by a big increase since 2011 in cases that were suspended, often by agreement between Homeland Security prosecutors and judges. Under the prosecutorial discretion policy, administration officials said they would offer suspensions to clear the court docket of low-priority cases involving immigrants with no criminal records who had families in the United States.

The number of case suspensions rose to 32,454 last year from 6,360 in 2011, an increase of more than 400 percent.

Mr. Obama has asked the Homeland Security secretary, Jeh C. Johnson, to review the enforcement strategy to come up with what he called a more humane policy. {snip}


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  • Luca

    This is Obama’s de facto amnesty. Let in as many as can cross the border and when they are caught, let them go.

  • The Obammunist makes up numbers when he doesn’t like the real ones. The economy is a Potemkin village, and so is his matrix of lies about immigration and everything else. It’s all as real as that “birth certificate” he produces.

  • LACountyRedneck

    Be an activist. I’ve sent just about 500 faxes to Reps, congress, and the W.H. since ’06 through NumbersUSAdotcom. Signup and then a simple click to send faxes. Minimal effort involved.

  • Pro_Whitey

    But this can’t be. BO is deporting more people than ever! He says so! The illegal immigrant advocates say so! That must be true!

  • JackKrak

    The Dems know their next generation of votes has to come from somewhere. Guatemala, for example.

  • Who Me?

    I hear the weather in Central and South America is pretty good, at least in places. Let ’em all come here, We’ll take the lands they left, clean them up and make them into prosperous White cities and rural areas. We are White people and used to doing this. This time we’ll have sense enough to build a fence and not to admit any Mestizos, blacks and/or politicians! Oh, and before we leave our lands to the teeming invaders, destroy the buildings, poison the wells and salt the earth. Burn anything left.

    • IstvanIN

      I wouldn’t poison the wells or salt the earth, simply destroy all the infrastructure and let them start from scratch, we may want to move back someday after the “New Americans” have died off from royally screwing up.

      • Who Me?

        You do have a point there.

    • mikebowen55

      That would work but only if we keep the tribe out.

    • DonReynolds

      I agree. Leave nothing behind that the enemy can use. Scorched earth is a rational policy. Burn it all.

  • DonReynolds

    Of course……do not mention that many of those court ordered “deportations” have already been released back into the community and have disappeared to another state. Since people are not held in custody until a court can consider a deportation order, the court order becomes virtually worthless until they are captured again, with another phony name and another bogus social security number. Remember, Obama released 68,000 of the criminal aliens back onto the streets of America, last year alone. Some of these had serious felony charges pending, were repeat offenders, and HAD ALREADY been deported many times. In the case of Mexico, they will not allow the criminal aliens to return to their own country! making a “deportation” order, worth less than the paper it is printed on.