Brendan Kirby, Lifezette, August 9, 2017
Deportation orders have surged since Attorney General Jeff Sessions took office, rising almost 28 percent from February through July compared with the same period last year, according to statistics released this week.
Immigration judges, who work for the Justice Department, issued 49,983 removal orders, up 27.8 percent from the same six-month period in 2016. Including voluntary departures, in which illegal immigrants agree to leave the country at their own expense, the total number was 57,069 — a 30.9 percent increase.
Immigration courts overall have also been more productive, with judges issuing 73,127 final decisions. That represents a 14.5 percent increase over the 63,850 dispositions last year at this time.
Andrew “Art” Arthur, who was associate general counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1999 to 2001 and served eight years as an immigration judge, said the increases in removal orders appear to be the result of a combination of increased manpower and policy changes.
Arthur, now resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, noted that the Justice Department has hired an additional 54 immigration judges since Trump took office.
Data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse show that the Trump administration used prosecutorial discretion to drop fewer than 100 cases a month during the first five months, compared with an average of about 2,400 cases a month during the comparable period last year.
The Justice Department data also suggest that immigration judges have become stingier in granting relief to immigrants facing deportation. That relief can range from granting asylum claims to determining that an immigrant is not removable.
In the six-month period in 2016, judges granted relief to 20,255 immigrants, which represented 31.7 percent of orders. The number this year is 16,058, or 22 percent.