DHS Secretary Admits Department Manipulates Deportation Statistics

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21 March 2014
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National News
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Last Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged that the Department has been reclassifying deportation data in a way that makes it appear deportations have increased. Specifically, Secretary Johnson confirmed that the 368,000 deportations reported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for fiscal year 2013 are due to the activity of an entirely different agency — Customs and Border Protection — and would not have counted towards ICE's removal total in previous administrations. (Hearing of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee Mar. 11, 2014; Bloomberg Government Transcript, Mar. 12, 2014; see also, Washington Times, Mar. 12, 2014)

Secretary Johnson made this admission last week when testifying before the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations. Representative John Culberson (R-TX) asked: "But under the Obama administration, more than half of those removals that were attributed to ICE are actually a result of Border Patrol arrests. They wouldn't have been counted in prior administrations." Secretary Johnson responded, "Correct." (See Bloomberg Government Transcript, Mar. 12, 2014; Washington Times, Mar. 12, 2014) Then Johnson confirmed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had increased the number of ICE deportations by transferring custody of illegal aliens caught by the Border Patrol to ICE so that ICE could have credit for removing the aliens. "For various reasons," Johnson said, "including reasons involving logistics, a larger number of people who were apprehended in or around the border then go to ICE custody," and thus the "368,000 reflects those removed by ICE." (Id.)

Perhaps understanding the magnitude of Secretary Johnson's admission, only two days later his subordinates attempted to minimize the Secretary's statement on the deportation statistics. (Hearing of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Mar. 13, 2014; Bloomberg Government Transcript, Mar. 14, 2014) In particular, Thomas Homan, Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) within ICE, said that only 54,000 of ICE's total removals came from Border Patrol apprehensions. (Id.) He claimed that these came from the Alien Transfer Exit program, through which ICE detains and transfers Border Patrol arrestees in order to break up smuggling rings. (Id.)

However, Homan's own report suggests that the numbers conflict with his testimony that only 54,000 of ICE's removal numbers come from Border Patrol apprehensions. The ERO Annual Report for fiscal year 2013 cites on its first page that 235,093 of ICE removals, out of ICE's total of 368,644, were "individuals apprehended along our borders while attempting to unlawfully enter the U.S." (ERO Annual Report, FY 2013 ICE Immigration Removals) Ninety-five percent of these apprehensions were by Border Patrol agents. (Id.)

But despite the fact that he admitted that DHS has padded ICE removal numbers with Border Patrol deportations, Secretary Johnson remains insistent that ICE removals have increased. (Hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, Mar. 13, 2014; Bloomberg Government Transcript, Mar. 14, 2014) When asked by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) whether ICE was making "record deportations," Johnson replied, "If you focus on those removals by ICE, the numbers are higher than they have been previously." (Id.)

Johnson's disclosure not only confirms that the Administration has been playing a shell game with deportation numbers for political gain, it also confirms that despite widespread complaints by amnesty proponents of "record deportations," enforcement has actually declined under Obama. (See FAIR's Legislative Update, Nov. 6, 2013; see also, Center for Immigration Studies' "Deportation Numbers Unwrapped," Oct. 2013) Regardless of which agency DHS gives credit for deportations, an accurate comparison to past administration numbers can be ascertained by simply adding the yearly number of all deportations by all immigration enforcement agencies, and comparing the total rather than agency numbers to past administrations. These statistics are publically available on DHS' website for the years 1927-2012. (See the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Table 39) The calculation reveals that by 2012 the total number of removals from both the border and the interior under Obama had declined to the lowest level since the mid 1970's.