The Corner

Cooking the Books on Deportation Figures

The Obama administration used accounting sleights of hand and more lenient deportation procedures to reach its much-touted “record number of deportations” this last fiscal year, reports the Washington Post. ICE included in its 392,862 deportation figure for fiscal year 2010 19,000 immigrants who had exited the previous year, and the agency encouraged more illegal aliens with criminal records to accept voluntary return — a free flight back to Mexico at taxpayer expense, which leaves no immigration violation blot on an illegal alien’s record. Without these efforts, which added 25,000 deportations to the tally, ICE would not have broken the deportation record this fiscal year.

One should be grateful, I suppose, that the Obama administration is at least paying lip service to the goal of greater immigration enforcement, even if it has to cook the books a little to meet that goal. Better a little hypocrisy in the public pursuit of virtue than to reject the validity of deportation altogether. And certainly the Bush administration was no more vigorous in enforcing the immigration laws than the Obama administration is. But any celebration of the Obama administration’s commitment to the immigration rule of law is of course premature. Much of ICE’s current deportation policy is immigration theater, designed to provide the administration with leverage towards a large-scale amnesty. If the Obama administration really believed in immigration enforcement, it would not be suing Arizona for enforcing federal immigration law; instead, it would be suing those many jurisdictions that continue to defy the 1996 federal ban on sanctuary policies. And it would drop its distinction between what it bills as legitimately deportable illegal aliens — those with severe criminal records —  and those illegal aliens with less severe or no criminal records who, according to the administration, should not fear ICE. Nothing in the country’s immigration laws enacts such a distinction.

Heather Mac Donald — Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops

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