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Immigration

Despite increased arrests, Trump deported fewer undocumented immigrants than Obama did in the same period last year

On Wednesday ICE announced a record number of detentions of undocumented immigrants as a sign that Trump was meeting his goals to protect the U.S. border. But official figures obtained by Univision reveal that deportations have actually gone down. Pro-immigrant organizations recognize that deportations could increase in the coming months.
18 May 2017 – 06:55 PM EDT
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A group of deported Guatemalans are received at the Guatemala City airport. Crédito: Getty Images

While the number of detentions of undocumented immigrants rose during President Donald Trump's first 100 days in office, deportations fell, according to official government data requested by Univision. That contradicts claims made by the administration on numerous occasions.

Between January 20 and April 29, 57,735 undocumented immigrants were deported. That's 8,749 fewer than the 66,484 deported in the same period in 2016, or a 13 percent decrease, according to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency that carries out deportations.

On Wednesday ICE announced that immigration arrests had shot up 38 percent in the first three months of the Trump administration compared with the same period last year, suggesting that the president's hardline policy was having quick results.

From January 20 to April 29, ICE officers arrested 41,318 people, compared with 30,028 over roughly the same period in 2016, the data showed.

“These statistics reflect President Trump’s commitment to enforce our immigration laws fairly and across the board,” said Thomas Homan, the acting director of ICE, on a phone call with reporters.

Of those deported in the first 100 days, 32,719 (57 percent) had a criminal record. In the same period in 2016, almost 60 percent had criminal records.

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants.

On January 25, the president signed two immigration executive orders in which he decreed that undocumented immigration was a threat to the public and national security of the United States.

"We are resisting"

Immigrant rights advocates say they are concerned by the numbers, though they see signs that their campaigns to resist the new administration's immigration policy are working.

"What ICE statistics tell us is that Trump is implementing the policy he announced against immigrants during his campaign. And we can assume he was not playing around. That is why there are more arrests, but we are resisting," said Juan José Gutiérrez, executive director of the Latin American Movement in Los Angeles, California.

"The fact that there are a greater number of arrests and imprisonment of undocumented immigrants and less deportations than under Obama indicates that the measures we have taken are working ... More people now know their rights, ask to speak with a lawyer and are not signing voluntary departures," he said.

Gutiérrez warned, however, that the numbers could change in the months to come. "We must continue to fight, teaching people what to do if they are detained and to know their rights thoroughly. Everyone is protected by the Constitution and we must demand the fulfillment of due process in immigration procedures."

Collapsed Courts

Trump's immigration policy is not only of concern to immigrant advocates. A report from the Syracuse University-based Transactional Records Information and Access Center (TRAC) revealed this week that in the past 18 months immigration courts have hired 79 new judges, but the accumulation of cases by the end of April had reached 585,930.

"We are dismayed by the numbers," says Lilia Velasquez, an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego. "We thought the new hires would alleviate the problem, but they are not. The new immigration policies are straining the system," she added.

Many people with asylum cases know they probably won't be able to see their case through court and will likely receive a deportation order. In that case, Velásquez says the waiting times "are favorable" because in the meantime they can stay, some even with a work permit.

"But in other cases of immigrants seeking a benefit and only waiting for the final decision of a judge, they have to wait four or more years, sometimes deprived of their liberty. It is a nightmare that they are suffering," she said.

Some courts are handing out appointments for July 2022. Courts with the fewest delays are located in ICE detention centers and prisons where the government has sent undocumented immigrants who are in the process of being deported.

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