The number of new deportation cases in immigration courts has been steadily dropping since 2009, with judges increasingly ruling against actions before them, Justice Department statistics showed Wednesday.
First reported by The New York Times
, the stats show a 43 percent drop in the number of deportations through the courts in the last five years.
The finding contradicts the derogatory designation of President Barack Obama as "deporter-in-chief"
by immigration activists and some Democratic senators.
In 2013, immigration judges ordered deportations in 105,064 cases nationwide. Also last year, the Obama administration opened 26 percent fewer deportation cases in the courts than in 2009.
The National Council of La Raza has said this administration has deported more people — an estimated two million, it says — than any other.
The Times reported the steepest drop in court deportations came after 2011, as the administration applied a more aggressive policy of prosecutorial discretion for illegals with no criminal record.
Last year, the Department of Homeland Security opened 187,678 deportation cases, nearly 50,000 fewer than in 2011.
Also, judges have been ruling more often against deportations: about one-third of the cases last year, up from one-fifth in 2009, the statistics showed.
The Times reported the decline may be owing in part at least to more immigrants' getting attorneys and fighting deportations.
But the number of deportations ordered by immigration courts is only a part of the total every year; many deportations at the border don't go through those courts, The Times noted.
Still, fewer court deportations helped fuel the drop in overall deportations last year, when enforcement agents booted out 368,644 immigrants, a 10 percent decrease from 2012, the stats showed.
Homeland Security officials said the statistics reflected their efforts to focus on deporting convicted criminals, foreigners posing security threats, and recent illegal border crossers.
"The administration has taken a number of steps to focus our resources on those priorities," Peter Boogaard, a department spokesman, told The Times, adding that "the exercise of prosecutorial discretion" had led enforcement agents and visa officials to file fewer deportation charges.
Deportations were further reduced by a 400 percent increase since 2011 in suspended cases, often by agreement between Homeland Security prosecutors and judges; case suspensions rose to 32,454 in 2013 from 6,360 in 2011.
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