WASHINGTON - With the deportation of 67 people last week, the U.S. has now removed about 326 Somali nationals since January, more than the total for all of 2016. This makes it the third year in a row that the number of Somalis removed from the U.S. has increased, stoking fears of raids, detentions and deportations.
The Somali citizens are part of a broader trend. In the first three months of 2017, the U.S. ordered the deportation of more than 1,200 Africans, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Citizens of Ghana, Nigeria, Somalia and Kenya have so far received the most removal orders.
Recent deportation orders reverse a decade-long trend. From 2006 to 2016, the number of Africans deported annually from the U.S. fell from 2,100 to just over 1,000. By the end of this year, the deportation rate will surpass 2016 numbers fourfold, if current rates hold.
Last week's deportation was the third such removal of Somali citizens in 2017. Despite recent spikes, however, the rate at which Somalis are deported from the U.S. is less than half the average for all immigrants. And, overall, immigrants from African countries are far less likely to be removed from the U.S. than other immigrant groups.
African citizens represented less than 0.4 percent of all deportations from the U.S. in 2016. That's partly because most immigrants coming to the U.S. are from non-African countries. In 2015, less than 5 percent of all immigrants in the U.S. were from Africa, according to Pew Research.
But Africans are also deported at far lower rates. Compared to all nationalities, citizens of African countries are about 10 times less likely to be deported. In 2016, one out of every 1,087 African immigrants was deported. That same year, one out of every 94 foreign nationals was deported, based on data from Pew Research Center, the Migration Policy Institute, and the U.S. Census.
Depending on their country of origin, some African immigrants are more likely to be deported, though these rates are still well below the overall average. The African countries with the highest deportation rates in 2016 were Somalia (one out of every 217 immigrants deported), Nigeria (one out of every 728 immigrants deported) and Ghana (one out of every 889 immigrants deported).
Almost 5,000 Somali nationals have received final orders of removal from the United States, according to ICE spokesman Brendan Raedy. The U.S. had held off on deporting Somalis because of a civil war in the country, but in 2012, the situation was considered stable enough that deportations were resumed.
“As of April 1, 2017, there were 4,801 Somali nationals with final orders of removal,” Raedy said last week.
Rejected asylum applications
Immigrants face deportation when they commit crimes, but non-criminal deportations are even more common. Last week's removals, for instance, included individuals whose asylum applications were denied.
According to an ICE official, “An immigration judge presided over full and fair immigration proceedings for each individual. After considering the merits of each case, the judge found them ineligible for any form of relief and ordered them removed. ICE effectuated their orders of removal in accordance with applicable U.S. law.”
However, hundreds of African refugees have been resettled in the U.S. this year, including 1,679 Somali refugees and 334 Sudanese refugees, according to U.S. State Department data from the Refugee Processing Center. Both countries are included in President Donald Trump's executive orders limiting travelers and immigrants from some majority-Muslim countries for 90 days. The current travel order has been halted by the courts and is now on appeal in two higher courts.
Overall, removal rates may remain comparatively low, but that doesn't change the impression of African immigrants living in fear of deportation.
Recent research published in Frontiers of Public Health suggests that anti-immigration policies, heated rhetoric, and persistent stereotypes can undermine the well-being of all immigrants, even those not facing deportation.
Despite African immigrants' high levels of education and an English proficiency rate that trails only immigrants from Europe and Canada, only 26 percent of Americans have positive views of African immigrants, according to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center. Perceptions about immigrants' impacts on crime and the economy fueled this low rate, Pew found.
Victoria Macchi contributed to this report