By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Before Republicans start caving to Democrats’ demand for “comprehensive immigration reform” this election year, skeptics say lawmakers should find out how billions in tax dollars are falling through the sieve of so-called enforcement programs.
Contrary to President Obama’s claims of record deportations, John Sandweg, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, admits ICE deported only 134,000 illegal immigrants from the country’s interior in 2012.
That figure — down 40 percent since 2009, when Obama took office — represents just 0.2 percent of the estimated 11.7 million illegals in the United States.
The administration and its political allies assert that Washington is spending more on immigration enforcement than on the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service and all other federal criminal law-enforcement agencies combined.
“Nearly $187 billion (was) spent on federal immigration enforcement over the past 26 years,” according to the Migration Policy Institute, a pro-immigration group.
But MPI buries the real news. Under Obama, ICE’s budget dropped from $5.98 billion in 2012 to a requested $5.34 billion for 2014. Citing financial constraints, ICE freed more than 2,000 detainees last February.
Deportations from the interior have declined under Obama’s “prosecutorial discretion” policies that exempt at least 90 percent of the illegal-alien population.
Overall, deportations by all federal agencies, as defined by the administration, fell from 409,849 in fiscal year 2012 to 368,644 in fiscal 2013.
“ICE arrests have been trending downward since 2008,” says Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies.
“ICE agents now are releasing more illegal aliens than they are deporting, even though they have more resources and technology at their disposal.”
The Clinton administration holds the record for deportations, at 12.3 million over eight years. George W. Bush’s administration shipped back 10.3 million illegals during his tenure.
An Obama White House briefing paper on “border security” never mentions the word “deportation.”
Critics say Congress should closely analyze expenditures and results as the White House and Democratic lawmakers make a political push to legalize more illegals.
“Those who support amnesty are playing along with the administration’s claim that it is continuing to enforce the law,” says the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Yet former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano repeatedly claimed she only had the resources to remove 400,000 illegal immigrants annually.
“They’ve used this as an excuse to stop nearly all deportations of illegal aliens without additional criminal convictions. At the same time, ICE and DHS have not requested additional funding to ensure broad enforcement of immigration laws,” FAIR spokeswoman Kristen Williamson told Watchdog.org.
Still, the “Deporter-in-Chief” narrative is echoed by immigration enthusiasts and mainstream media outlets, including the New York Times.
“Illegal immigration has been higher in the last decade than 20 or 40 years ago, and apprehensions are down,” Vaughn counters.
Meantime, the Government Accountability Office reports that DHS, which oversees ICE and 21 other agencies, had achieved operational control of only a “small share” of the southwest border. Republican leaders have made border security a key precondition for any proposed immigration deal.
Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward