One of the largest substantive differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was that the former was promising major changes to the American immigration system.
Trump promised to hire more border patrol agents, build a wall along the length of the border, and increase deportations by allocating more resources to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the Department of Homeland Security. So far, only the first of those campaign promises has been kept.
The border wall remains in perpetual limbo amid a bidding boondoggle and spurious spats with Congress for funding. And Trump administration deportations are far below the levels seen under the Obama administration. During the first five months of the Trump presidency, from February through June, ICE deported 16,900 people per month. When compared with the previous administration, that number is minuscule.
Even during their lowest year, the Obama administration deported more than 20,000 people per month. During their peak in 2012, more than 34,000 people were deported, again per month.
That’s more than double the Trump administration average. Yet the media hardly ever reported on this.
Doubling down on their hypocrisy, the media is now attempting to blame the lower level of deportations under the Trump administration as a broken campaign promise. That’s not even close to true.
Deportations under the Trump administration are not lower due to a lack of trying
There are a few possible causes for why Trump administration deportations are below those of the Obama administration.
One theory holds that Donald Trump’s excessive campaigning about how strict his immigration policies would be turned away immigrants. They simply decided not risk their lives trying to cross the border only to be turned away or deported later. There is plenty of evidence to back up this claim. Look no further than the anti-Trump protests across Mexico and Central America that are a direct response to his strict immigration policies.
But there is also the possibility that immigration, which is experienced in waves, was organically decreasing on its own. This phenomenon has been observed over the past decade and had been documented by the Obama administration. Their peak year for deportations was 2012; the lowest year was 2016. Apprehensions at the border are also at a multi-year low following improvement of the Mexican economy.
But the most likely case is that the Trump administration has swamped immigration courts and created an even worse backlog. There are currently more than 600,000 cases waiting to be heard. One hundred thousand of those were added in the past fiscal year. By expanding the scope of ICE to include arresting illegal immigrants for minor crimes, the Trump administration has overwhelmed an already stressed resource.
Even judging on the basis of its own goal to decrease illegal immigration, the Trump administration should readjust its priorities. It ought to think more than one step ahead, and up the number of federal judges responsible for hearing immigration cases. That would ease the bottleneck without drawing media headlines and public protests that come from boosting the number of border patrol agents.
This isn’t a case of President Trump breaking a campaign promise. Rather, it’s an inexperienced administration that hasn’t fully thought through its policies.
(Photo by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Homeland Security Department.)