Bryan Caplan  

Deportations Statistics

What Happened to the Mixed Eco... The Removal/Return Distinction...
I've been hearing a lot about Obama's immigration crackdown lately, so I decided to track down some numbers.  The official statistics on deportation run from 1892 to the present.  The key definitions:

Removal: "the compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States based on an order of removal."

Return: "the confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States not based on an order of removal. Most of the voluntary returns [?!] are of Mexican nationals who have been apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol and are returned to Mexico."

I suspect that the "voluntary returns" are about as voluntary as the payment of taxes.  But here's how the government counts its deportations for the last three decades:


If there's a big practical difference between "removals" and "returns," Obama clearly looks more draconian than Bush.  Even here, though, notice that near-Obama levels of removals date from the late Bush administration.  On the other hand, if we treat "removals" and "returns" as equivalent, Clinton's the worst offender.  Hmm.

P.S. There's a lot of additional data here.

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COMMENTS (8 to date)
PrometheeFeu writes:

Recently my sister was repealed at the border based on a hunch of the immigration officer who thought she might not leave: She did not have a return ticket which is not a requirement but is frowned upon by immigration officers. (I'll spare you the long description of the lies and cruel mind games played by the immigration officer)

While in detention (yes, the USA throws in detention people whose sole crime is to give the impression to the immigration officials that they might decide to stay in the country illegally) my sister met a young woman who had been there for some time. That young woman was jailed because when she was 10, her parents had brought her illegally in the US. A few months back, some immigration officials raided that young woman's house and arrested her so they could deport her. She has no idea what will happen to her if they kick her out since she knows nothing of the place to which she is going and is terrified.

Restrictive immigration policies is one of the worst abuses by the governments of developed countries nowadays.

Mike writes:

Returns could also be truly voluntary in some cases (seasonal workers going home). In that case the number of returns would essentially be a measure of the economy.

Mike C. writes:

I would guess that Mike is correct about returns being a measure of the economy, but not in the way he suggests. If many people are attempting to cross the border into the United States, more are likely to be caught and returned (voluntarily!). If the economy is down, fewer will attempt the crossing and fewer will be returned.

John Thacker writes:

After adjusting for the strength of the economy, President Obama is the most draconian.

"Voluntary" returns are often not that voluntary, but the construction trade has been one of the hardest hit, and that among other things has slowed Mexican illegal immigration.

Brian writes:

This would have to be presented in context of migration origins, border patrol staffing, workplace investigations inside the USA, and undocumented migrant levels inside the USA to be useful data.

The border patrol has doubled and doubled again in size and intrusiveness since the early Clinton administration. That means more returns.

Workplace enforcement was dropped 99% by Bush policy and almost all enforcement was moved to the border. Obama and Clinton are much harder on employers who flout the law.

Undocumented migrants grew through the period but exploded during the Bush free-for-all. Then the Bush-Obama recession reduced demand and numbers finally began to drop.

Mexicans were initially most of the undocumented migrants but the Mexican economy and education system has continued to grow as the American economy has shrunk and now many unskilled Mexicans can earn more in Mexico than in the USA. The 2010 census numbers from Mexico and the USA indicate that three to five million fewer Mexican are in the USA than predicted and the same number more are living in Mexico.

Undocumented migrant numbers in the USA are still as high as predicted because even lower skilled and less educated and poorer migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, and the like are flooding into the USA. Soon we will dream of the high quality of Mexican illegals we used to get. Of course, only Mexicans (and Canadians?) can be "returned."

James Strong writes:

Should these numbers be slouched off on presidents? Are they really the ones we should hold accountable?

I'd be willing to wager that Arizona's immigrant hunt contributes more to the increase in removals than any Obama policy.

Scott from Ohio writes:

Wow, I had no idea so many were deported every year. Even though the totals are lower now than during the Clinton years, before the recession we were still kicking out a Dallas worth of people every single year. That just blows my mind.

H Odell writes:

It has been argued by some that the housing bust was caused partly because of the drop in housing needs as a million or more people emmigrated. That may be why we have so many empty houses as well as the fact that people have moved in with family because of lost jobs.

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