Risk of Deportation Now Lowest Since Obama Took Office

January 20, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2018

President Barack Obama has managed to reduce the risk of deportation to its lowest point since taking office in 2009.

Some 240,000 were deported in 2016, the Homeland Security Department reported—about 2 percent more than in the previous year.

But most were deported from the border. Interior deportations decreased to about 65,000. That’s a drop of over 72 percent since the peak of almost 240,000 in 2009, the year Obama took office.

The numbers follow Obama’s “felons, not families” doctrine that focuses on deporting illegal immigrants apprehended at the border or those convicted for felonies, like robbery or worse.

His administration even set up a hotline for illegal immigrants to complain if they believe they’re being deported despite not falling into one of the priority categories.

But even criminals inside the country have been facing progressively fewer deportations: Some 60,000 were apprehended in 2016, compared to 150,000 at the peak in 2010. At the time, the immigration system aggressively sought cooperation from local law enforcement. Obama has curbed such efforts to avoid deporting lesser criminals and breaking up families.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Courts, which decide the majority of deportations, are sagging under a backlog of more than 526,000 cases, leaving immigrants waiting years for a hearing.

As a result, illegal immigrants who avoid apprehension at the border face virtually no risk of deportation, unless they get convicted of a more serious crime.

What Will Trump Do?

President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign ran on a tough line against illegal immigration and suggested he’ll prioritize deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records. That could mean relaxing the criteria for deportation to include lesser criminals. The number of interior deportations would thus likely increase.

On the other hand, Trump sympathized with the roughly 2 million people brought to the country illegally as children (called “Dreamers” by advocates), making them unlikely targets for deportation unless they commit a crime.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab