Thank Trump for America’s return to real immigration enforcement

Over eight years, Barack Obama systematically dismantled our immigration enforcement apparatus. Remarkably, it only took Donald Trump 200 days as president to reverse the damage done by his predecessor and restore the rule of law.

But wait, wasn’t President Obama the “deporter-in-chief”? Hardly.

In an effort to appear tough on illegal immigration while peddling the “Gang of Eight’s” mass amnesty guest worker bill, the Obama administration began cooking the books by manipulating deportation statistics. In immigration law, deportations are the removal of illegal aliens from the interior of the country. To mask the fact that the Obama administration wasn’t doing its job within our borders, it began counting “turn-arounds”—illegal aliens detained close to the border by the Border Patrol—as interior removals. No previous administration has counted deportations this way because there is a clear distinction between border apprehensions and interior removals. 

{mosads}Any entry-level investigative journalist could have easily detected this statistical farce. Heck, all they had to do was read The Hill which, in 2011, quoted Obama as saying, “The [deportation] statistics are a little deceptive.” Actually, they were a lot deceptive. But why quibble? Even after newly-installed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson confirmed the manipulation (under oath during Congressional testimony), major news outlets continued to report on the “record deportations” through the final days of the Obama administration.


The truth is, deportations plummeted throughout Obama’s time in office, culminating in a mere 65,000 interior removals last year. The United States has an illegal alien population of at least 11 million, yet the Obama administration was only able to remove 0.06 percent of them in its final year. Hundreds of thousands of identified criminal aliens were ignored, while the odds of anyone being deported “merely” for being in the country illegally were virtually nil.

Recent data from the Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review conclusively show that there is a new sheriff in town. In just six months, the Trump administration issued nearly 50,000 orders of removal, reflecting a 28 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2016. Similarly, the 73,000 final decisions issued by immigration judges rendered by the Trump administration thus far is 14.5 percent higher than at this point in Obama’s final year in office. Notably, total orders of removal and voluntary departures combined (57,069) are 31 percent higher than this time last year.

Perhaps you’re familiar with a different phrase to describe voluntary departures: self-deportation. Mitt Romney was mocked relentlessly during the 2012 presidential campaign by President Obama and the media for having the audacity to suggest that illegal aliens will pack up and leave if the U.S. strictly enforces its immigration laws. Yet, this is exactly what’s happening now as nearly 7,100 illegal aliens have decided they prefer to return to their home countries on their terms rather than go through the immigration courts and wind up being deported.

This should not be surprising; illegal aliens are rational individuals. When the benefits of living here unlawfully begin to disappear—specifically the ability to work illegally—they correctly reach the conclusion that there is no reason to stay.

How did this happen so quickly?

No magical formula, just good old-fashioned enforcement of the laws passed by Congress. A week into his presidency, Trump issued an interior enforcement executive order that declared all illegal aliens subject to removal (which is exactly what our immigration laws say) but smartly identified criminal aliens and aliens who pose national security threats as priorities for enforcement. This is what real prosecutorial discretion looks like.

By comparison, President Obama’s definition of “prosecutorial discretion” was so broad that it stretched the concept to a point where it rendered many immigration laws meaningless. Through the Morton Memos, named after then-Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, and subsequently the Johnson Memos, President Obama identified several narrow categories of illegal aliens his administration would target, leaving all other illegal aliens exempt from enforcement. As a result, an estimated 87 percent of the illegal alien population was off limits from immigration enforcement, which explains the paltry ICE interior removal numbers.

The Trump Justice Department’s press release announcing these key enforcement statistics was titled, “Return to Rule of Law.” Indeed.

Robert Law is the director of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Barack Obama Barack Obama Donald Trump Donald Trump Federation for American Immigration Reform Gang of Eight Illegal immigration Immigration Immigration reform Presidency of Barack Obama Presidency of Donald Trump Robert Law U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
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