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US Deports 2 Million Illegal Immigrants During Obama's Tenure

  • Kent Klein

The United States has deported about 2 million illegal immigrants in the five years since President Barack Obama took office. Some Americans say the administration is too aggressive in enforcing immigration law, while others say it's not aggressive enough.

The Obama administration is removing illegal immigrants from the country in record numbers, according to Greg Chen, at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

"Those numbers, under both Presidents Bush and Obama, have increased steadily in the past decade and are currently at a real high point. So overall, it's important to recognize that the administration has been incredibly robust in its enforcement practices," said Greg Chen, from the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

But overall deportation numbers are down, says Jon Feere, at the Center for Immigration Studies.

"What we need to see is a serious commitment to immigration enforcement. We need to see deportation numbers actually going up, instead of going down, as they are now. But thus far, the White House just doesn't seem all that serious about immigration enforcement," said Feere.

How can the same numbers be seen so differently? Because of the difference between what the government calls "returns" and "removals." The number of returns - immigrants apprehended at the border and sent back home - has plummeted in the past decade. Meanwhile, removals - immigrants formally expelled and barred from returning - have risen to an all-time high.

Jon Feere is concerned that the combined total of returns and removals is down.

"So if you're looking at this idea of removals, which is a type of deportation, the numbers do appear to be going up slightly. But if you look at overall deportation numbers, which is removals plus returns, which occur along the border, you see that the numbers are actually going down," he said.

But Greg Chen says the government is still getting tough with illegal immigrants.

"The thing to recognize is that President Obama has increased the border presence and he has made the actual outcomes, the consequences of having been apprehended and deported out of the country, more severe by having a greater number of removals," he said.

However, longtime immigration lawyer Jim Tom Haynes, says fewer new deportation cases are making it to immigration courts, which have far more cases than they can handle.

"The cases that do get into the court are taking years to get through. So I think that you have fewer deportations now simply because the courts can't process all this work," said Haynes.

Meanwhile, the debate over whether more or less enforcement is needed is likely to shape the course of legislation to reform the U.S. immigration system. It may also affect the outcome of this November's congressional elections.