As we begin to become immersed in immigration law enforcement practices under President Trump, I thought a look back at historical practices might be helpful. The information below comes entirely from DHS statistics.
President Obama’s enforcement record is familiar to crimmigration.com readers. From fiscal years 2009 to 2015, the United States removed 2,749,854 people and returned another 2,080,307. No data are available for President Obama’s last full fiscal year, FY 2016.
As defined by DHS for purposes of these statistics, “Removals are the compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States based on an order of removal. An alien who is removed has administrative or criminal consequences placed on subsequent reentry owing to the fact of the removal.” In contrast, “Returns are the confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States not based on an order of removal.” Put another way, removal requires an order by an immigration judge; return does not.
By historical standards, these were outsized accomplishments. Below is data for removals from 1892 to 2015. The highlighted column represents 2009, the first year under President Obama.
Here is analogous data for returns from 1927 to 2015 (DHS doesn’t provide return data prior to 1927).
As this graph shows, President Obama returned fewer people than his predecessor George W. Bush. Still, President Obama beat out his Republican predecessor on removals by almost one million. Returns are certainly no trifling matter, but removals carry much steeper penalties including the unquestionable possibility of criminal prosecution upon unauthorized reentry.