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November 21, 2014

Behind the Rising Deportations of ‘Criminals’
By Eugene Kiely

The White House fact sheet on the president’s immigration plan also cited the 80 percent figure. “By setting priorities and focusing its enforcement resources, the Obama Administration has already increased the removal of criminals by more than 80%.” We were curious about the 80 percent jump in deportations of criminals and went to one of the most respected sources of immigration data and analysis: the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. It turns out that TRAC has already vetted this exact claim. On April 8, 2014, TRAC published a detailed analysis of 2.3 million deportations enforced by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from 2008 to 2013. The organization used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the data. Specifically, TRAC examined the Obama administration’s claim that is has had “a high degree of success in achieving its objective of deporting ‘convicted criminals.’” The TRAC report confirms that Obama’s 80 percent figure is accurate, but inflated. TRAC said there has been an 87 percent increase from fiscal year 2008 to fiscal year 2013 in the deportation of those classified by ICE as “convicted criminals.” But that’s because ICE uses an “exceedingly broad definition of criminal behavior,” the report said. TRAC report, April 8, 2014: ICE currently uses an exceedingly broad definition of criminal behavior: even very minor infractions are included. For example, anyone with a traffic ticket for exceeding the speed limit on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway who sends in their check to pay their fine has just entered ICE’s “convicted criminal” category. If the same definitions were applied to every citizen — rather than just to noncitizens — available evidence (see TRAC’s February 2012 report) suggests that the majority of U.S. citizens would be considered convicted criminals. The 87 percent increase in the deportation of “convicted criminals” was driven almost exclusively by “those with a traffic violation (up 191 percent) and individuals convicted of immigration offenses (up 167 percent).”

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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