While Americans were preparing for the Christmas holiday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) nonchalantly issued its FY 2013 enforcement data. The Obama administration typically chooses these times to make surprise announcements, or bury unflattering reports.

Deportations, as defined by the administration, are down – dropping from 409,849 in FY 2012 to 368,644 in FY 2013. The drop is no surprise to anyone watching Obama scrap worksite enforcement, local and state cooperation, and nearly any other vestige of interior immigration enforcement. The decline of deportations is consistent with this administration’s belief that violating immigration laws – provided no other laws have been broken – is now entirely inconsequential and subject to little or no penalty.

Truth is, enforcement is not just down from last year, it is at near record lows. The administration has been cooking the books by redefining certain border apprehensions as ICE deportations. This has skewed enforcement metrics and has impeded any apples-to-apples comparison of the data.

How the Administration Cooks the Books

The 2013 data reveal that the Obama administration has been inflating their deportation numbers by counting some border apprehensions and returns as ICE deportations. Those two categories have traditionally been reported as separate numbers prompting several members of Congress recently to complain about Obama’s new “accounting” techniques. Yet, even the administration’s deceptive methods cannot hide the fact that the total number of illegal aliens sent back to their countries of origin under the Obama administration numbers is significantly lower than previous administrations.

Record Deportations? More Like Record Lows

  • At an average of 800,863 a year, the Obama administration has deported or otherwise returned fewer illegal aliens than the Ford administration, at 804,081 a year. Over a four year period, Carter also removed or returned more illegal aliens. – see Table 39
  • The total number of illegal aliens sent back to their countries of origin peaked under the Clinton administration at over 1.5 million a year.
  • The George W. Bush administration removed or returned an average of 1.29 million illegal aliens a year.

2013 ICE Deportations

  • Total claimed: 368,644
  • 223,340 illegal aliens (60.6%) were actually apprehended by Border Patrol, but ICE claimed credit for processing.
  • 134,000 illegal aliens were deported by ICE from the interior – down 40% since 2009.
  • Only 8,331 illegal aliens (out of 11.7 million currently in the U.S.) were removed for “merely” being in the country illegally.
  • The odds of an illegal alien having the law enforced against him was about .07% in 2013.

Those who support amnesty are playing along with the administration’s claim that they’re continuing to enforce the law. The “Deporter-in-Chief” narrative plays well for the opposition. Obama is the bad cop trying to enforce the law – “his hands are tied!” And the amnesty lobby can put fake pressure on him to continue to roll back U.S. immigration law.

Credit is due to Center for Immigration Studies’ Jessica Vaughn for tracking ICE deportations numbers and very accurately predicting the FY 2013 data.