By: Helena Coric*
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) recently released some striking information about U.S. federal immigration enforcement. The data is effectively broken up by nationality, geographic location, year and type of immigration charge. It provides a better understand of the deportation proceedings. Listening to media reports on deportation statistics under the Obama administration is one matter, but being able to see the exact breakdown allows for a more thorough analysis. For the average citizen with national security or terrorism concerns, the TRAC data provides solace in showing that these charges are amongst the lowest levels across the board. Furthermore, this data is useful in comparing how one state compares to the country as a whole or to states with more pressing immigration concerns such as California or Texas.
On the national level and individual state levels, in particular Maryland and Virginia the most common charge is entry without inspection, well over 50%. The entry without inspection charge (EWI) is most often applicable to those crossing the Mexican or Canadian border without having any contact with an immigration official. Why is it important to distinguish the different types of charges? Congress has provided funds to ICE for around 400,000 deportations annually, and the Obama administration aims at making sure those resources are directed at the high-priority cases primarily. A high-priority case is one which poses a threat to public safety whether due to national security concerns or criminal activity. Now, the TRAC data clearly shows that the majority of deportations are not these “high-priority cases”. This does not mean that ICE is going against the Congressional initiative, rather EWI charges are more common and threats to public safety due to immigration are fortunately not widespread.
While the United States as a whole has Mexican immigrants as the majority; Virginia and Maryland’s most popular nationality comes from El Salvador. What is the significance of these results? National media often directs the immigration debate towards our neighbors in Mexico, but clearly this may not be the priority for each individual state. Consider that in New York the greatest nationality being deported (by a wide margin) is Chinese. In comparison, big states California and Texas face highest deportation rates for those individuals coming from Mexico, followed by three Central American countries (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala). What is the relevance of such statistics and categories, you may ask? Well, immigration concerns and policy directions may vary widely in these two states compared to for example, Florida where Caribbean deportations are more likely.
Recent reports demonstrate that as deportations are rising in 2012, the deportation orders have fallen. How can this be explained? Under the Freedom of Information Act, data has shown that in May of this year 39, 426 people were deported; with at least a third removed from the country and bypassing the immigration courts. This is possible from the 1996 Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act which established the expedited removal procedure.
Are more individuals indeed being deported without court review? How common are deportations through the Congress-granted administrative powers for the immigration enforcement agencies? Available data shows that although actual deportations are increasing, the decrease in court-ordered deportations suggests other categories. Only 25% of the total removals are court-ordered; the remaining are: 34.7% by reinstated order, 29.8% by expedited removal, and 10.1% voluntary return under safeguards. To clarify these different types of deportations, reinstated orders are those cases whereby an individual illegally returns after previous orders to leave U.S.soil. And these voluntary returns are those in which the person agrees to leave the country with ICE monitoring the departure and without any court-issued order.
The national media often comments on rising and falling levels of deportations but rarely analyzes the intricacies of the deportation process. An individual is not simply “deported”. Leaving the country encompasses everything: his charge, his location and his nationality are dependent on the changing policies and statistics. So as not to risk over-simplifying a complicated process; consulting data and statistics such as TRAC is the first step in progress.
*Helena Coric is an Intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, P.C.