Ted Hesson’s Numbers that Tell the Story of Obama and Immigration


Our former editor Ted Hesson has an interesting take on the numbers that tell part of the story of immigration in the Obama years. Here are some excerpts:

When President Barack Obama took the oath of office four years ago, immigration reform seemed possible, if not a high priority on the president’s agenda.

But immigration took a backseat to healthcare and the economy. Reform went nowhere.

Instead, Obama became a hawk on enforcement. He earned the nickname “deporter-in-chief,” overseeing a record number of deportations during his first term. The border became more secure than ever before, with apprehensions dipping to lows not seen since the 1970s.

Still, the president spoke of support for reform. As a downpayment, he launched a new program over the summer for young undocumented immigrants, allowing them to live and work legally in the U.S.
So these are the two faces of Obama on immigration: record levels of enforcement but with verbal support for immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

Here are seven numbers that tell the story of immigration policy during Obama’s first four years:

1.6 million: The record number of deportations under Obama during his first four years in office. On average, Obama deported 32,886 per month, according to an August article by Polifact. That rate is much higher than that of his predecessors: George W. Bush deported a monthly average of 20,964 and Clinton deported 9,059.

154,404: The number of DREAMers who have received deferred action under the Obama program officially started in August. The program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), won accolades from immigrant rights activists, even while they criticized him for the climbing levels of deportations.

“It’s the first time in decades that there’s actually an affirmative benefit that you can apply for,” Chung-Wha Hong, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, told ABC/Univision in September. “Both in the impact of the benefit and the scale of application, deferred action is really one of the most positive developments of the last decade, that, otherwise, was really categorized by heavy enforcement.”

$18 billion: The amount of money that the federal government spent on immigration enforcement in the 2012 fiscal year. That significantly outweighs the combined spending for all other major criminal federal law enforcement in the U.S., including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

97 percent: The number of jurisdictions in the country where the immigration enforcement program Secure Communities has been implemented.

608: The number of beds in a new immigration detention center that could set a trend for such facilities. The detention center, in Karnes County, Texas, tries to minimize the penal aspect of immigration detention by giving detainees free movement for much of the day and replacing armed guards with unarmed “resident advisors.” The complex has a gym, computers with Internet access and cable television.

Still, activists say federal immigration authorities haven’t done enough in the realm of detention reform. Jared Polis, a Democratic congressman from Colorado, joined them: “It’s very important to shine light on the terrible state of our immigration detention system in this country,” said Polis (D-Colo.), who called current conditions a “deprivation of dignity.”

0: The level of net migration from Mexico, according an April report by the Pew Hispanic Center.

92: The number of days that evangelicals are giving Obama to introduce his own immigration reform bill during his second term in office.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.