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May 19, 2014
Caption : A new report from the Migration Policy Institute provides clarity on deportations and the deportation process since 1996. The report claims that the nation is in a “deportation dilemma” due to the ways in which the call for more humane policies is in contradiction to increased enforcement.     

In the continued absence of federal comprehensive immigration reform, activists and allies of immigrant communities are undertaking campaigns to end deportations and are calling on President Obama to exercise his authority to do so.

While Obama has made efforts with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to craft a “more humane” deportation policy, immigrant rights activists see Obama as the “deporter in chief.”

However, fewer deportations were made in 2013 and House Republican Leadership has consistently criticized Obama for not enforcing immigration laws. 

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute provides clarity on deportations and the deportation process since 1996. The report claims that the nation is in a “deportation dilemma” due to the ways in which the call for more humane policies is in contradiction to increased enforcement.

According the report, more than 4.5 million individuals have been removed from the U.S. since the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996.

While the current administration in the last five years has almost matched the number of deportations seen during the eight years of the last administration, discretionary policies to halt deportations have arisen in recent years. These include the DACA program and a policy memo regarding military personnel.

Key drivers of deportation policies include legislation that expand grounds for removal; increased resources for immigration enforcement personnel and infrastructure; and policy decisions through the last three presidential administrations.

Three trends characterize the rise in deportations since the mid-1990s:

1. Increased forced removals.
Until 1996, forced removals constituted 3 to 5 percent of total deportations. In 2012, 65 percent of deportations were forced removals. Historically, most removals consisted of “informal returns,” whereas now forced removals entail ineligibility for visas and possible criminal charges if apprehended in the future.

2. Shift to nonjudicial removal.
IIRIRA has facilitated new and enhanced nonjudicial removal procedures. Immigration officials rather than immigration judges were responsible for 313,000 out of the 419,000 deportations in FY 2012.

3. Growth of criminal immigration cases.
Unauthorized immigrants are increasingly being charged with previously little-used immigration-related criminal charges. Driven by border enforcement, charges of criminal violations along the Southwest border increased from 1 percent in FY 1997 to 22 percent in FY 2013.

The Obama administration has maintained policy decisions enacted since President Bill Clinton while attempting to adjust the deportation system such as with discretionary policies.

“The resulting system is deeply unsatisfying to both sides in the immigration debate,” the report states. “The executive branch alone cannot reconcile the fundamentally competing policy demands.”

Comprehensive immigration reform necessitates cooperation and coalition, which is missing at the federal level. Looking ahead, advocacy to change state laws remains the most viable tactic in the larger strategy for immigration reform. 

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