In his first television interview after the election, President-Elect Trump stated that he planned to deport approximately 2 million undocumented immigrants. Specifically Mr. Trump said that, once inaugurated, he planned to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records, gang members and drug dealers. According to the Washington Post, Mr. Trump based his numbers on a 2013 report from U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that estimated the number of undocumented aliens with criminal records at roughly 1.9 million.
The President-elect’s statement suggests that the current administration is not deporting criminal aliens. This is incorrect. In fact, according to DHS statistics, the Obama Administration has deported more aliens than any other President in U.S. history. For specifics, click here.
Moreover, the Obama Administration has focused a substantial proportion of its enforcement resources on the apprehension, detention and deportation of criminal aliens, gang members and drug dealers. For information on the DHS’s Criminal Alien Program, click here.
The President-elect’s statement also suggests that there be immediate action to deport criminal aliens. This ignores the fact that the Immigration and Nationality Act includes provisions to ensure the expedited removal of aliens who have been convicted of aggravated felonies while also providing protection for aliens convicted of less serious crimes who have U.S. citizen spouses and/or children or other meaningful ties to the U.S.
For more than a decade, the immigration court system has struggled with an enormous backlog. According to latest figures, there are currently 521,676 active cases in the Immigration Courts. This is due to a combination of factors, including increased enforcement, some upsurge in the flow of undocumented aliens, limitations on resources and slow hiring of immigration judges, trial attorneys and court personnel. For information on the backlog and the impact of heightened enforcement on the immigration courts, click here.
Thus, even if the new administration adopts a “get tougher” approach to immigration enforcement, it will soon discover that the system that exists today is ill-prepared to handle any sudden increase in apprehensions and new deportation cases. So long as a system exists that provides aliens with a modicum of due process and an opportunity to establish a right to relief, any effort to rapidly increase deportations will only make a bad situation worse.