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US government deports fewest immigrants in nearly a decade

Published:Wednesday | October 7, 2015 | 10:00 AM

WASHINGTON (AP):

The Obama administration deported fewer immigrants over the last 12 months than at any time since 2006, according to government figures obtained by The Associated Press.

Deportations of criminal immigrants have fallen to the lowest levels since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, despite his pledge to focus on finding and deporting criminals living in the country illegally. The share of criminal immigrants deported in relation to overall immigrants deported rose slightly, from 56 per cent to 59 per cent.

The overall total of 231,000 deportations generally does not include Mexicans who were caught at the border and quickly returned home by the US Border Patrol. The figure does include roughly 136,700 convicted criminals deported in the last 12 months. Total deportations dropped 42 percent since 2012.

The Homeland Security Department has not yet publicly disclosed the new internal figures, which include month-by-month breakdowns and cover the period between October 1, 2014, and September 28.

The new numbers emerged as illegal immigration continues to be sharply debated among Republican presidential candidates, especially front-runner Donald Trump. And they come as Obama carries out his pledge from before his 2012 re-election to narrowly focus enforcement and slow deportations after more than a decade of rising figures.

The biggest surprise in the figures was the decline in criminal deportations. The Homeland Security Department secretary, Jeh Johnson, last year directed immigration authorities anew to focus on finding and deporting immigrants who pose a national security or public-safety threat, those who have serious criminal records or those who recently crossed the Mexican border.

The decline suggests the administration was failing to find criminal immigrants in the US interior, or that fewer immigrants living in the US illegally had criminal records serious enough to justify deporting them.