Can Deportation Policies be both Humane and Tough?

This report published by the Migration Policy Institute and titled, “The Deportation Dilemma: Reconciling Tough and Human Enforcement” explores whether or not deportation policies can be both humane and tough. The disagreement on whether the current administration’s immigration enforcement is adequate or not reveals a fundamental difference in the definition of a successful immigration enforcement system. The Obama administration, in its first five years, formally deported over 1.9 million people while the previous administration , in its entire eight years, formally deported 2 million. The rate of formal deportations has quickened tremendously. 

“The Deportation Dilemma” explains three key drivers of the rise of deportations: 1. Pipelines for Deportation; 2. Appropriations; and 3. Executive-Branch Policy and Implementation Decisions. The pipelines for deportation have shifted from a strict adherence to judicial rulings and official deportations to more nonjudicial removal procedures. These nonjudicial removal procedures include: expedited removals (representing 39% of all formal removals) and reinstatements of removal (36% of all removals). Together, nonjudicial removals accounted for 75% of all deportations in 2012, and by comparison accounted for just 3% in 1995 and 1996. Appropriations for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have risen about 300% since 2002. Finally, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has continued developing deportation and immigration policies to strengthen our borders. Coupled with the current administration’s prosecutorial discretion introduction, policies have developed greatly.

Formal removals are now more common than informal removals (or returns). Formal removals made up 65% of deportations in 2012 and result in the ineligibility of the person deported for a visa to return. Another trend in deportation procedure and policy is an increase in prosecution for immigration-related criminal offenses. These strict, zero-tolerance policies do not appear to expand into the interior of the nation where fewer formal removals originate. 

The dilemma outlined in the report is whether strict immigration and deportation policies are in conflict with more humane enforcement or not. The subtext asks whether a stricter system inevitably damages and destroys families and communities within the U.S.  

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