The United States government deported around 369,000 immigrants during the 2013 fiscal year, according to new Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics that were released last month. The figures show a drop of 10% on the previous year, the first fall in deportations since 2008, when President Barack Obama first took office.
Around 60% of the immigrants who were deported in 2013 had previously been convicted of criminal offences. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say that the figures meet “one or more immigration priorities” that were announced two years ago by the Obama administration, but that federal resources were now no longer going to be devoted to deporting immigrants who were “low priority cases,” such as those who do not have criminal records and who pose no threat to national security.
“The 2013 numbers make clear that we are 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,” said the acting director of ICE, John Sandweg, in a news release. However, the new numbers are misleading, according to a number of immigrant rights advocacy groups, including Filipino-American groups.
They say that the report shows that 151,834 people who had no criminal convictions were also deported, and shows a breaking of Obama’s promise to put an end to unnecessary deportations. “The government would claim that they have achieved its enforcement goal, and that they only look for criminals,” says Filipino-American professor Emelyn Tapaoan. “That’s all rhetoric.”