Get the Numbers: Immigration Enforcement in the Trump Era

By Brian Harper

It's no secret the U.S. president talks tough when it comes to immigration. So how do the numbers break down?

There is little doubt that immigration stands as a core issue for U.S. President Donald Trump, who’s signed nine related executive orders since taking office. Per a Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report, his administration’s approach to the issue has been characterized by heightened enforcement, cuts to humanitarian aid, and increased barriers to legal immigration.

How do the numbers bear out? During fiscal year (FY) 2017, the number of unauthorized immigrants apprehended at the southern U.S. border fell to the lowest levels seen since 1971. A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) report recorded a 17 percent decrease in border deportations—or removals which occur within 100 miles of the border—compared to the previous year. The agency attributed the drop to Trump’s policies acting as a deterrent. Then, in 2018, month-to-month apprehensions jumped back up to levels similar to other recent years.

Something else has changed: where enforcement takes place. Even if FY 2017 saw decreases on a national level, the number of deportations happening in the interior of the country jumped by nearly 25 percent over the prior year, to almost 82,000. Still, that number pales in comparison to the 229,000 interior removals ICE made in FY 2010, the first full fiscal year in which Barack Obama was president.

Trump has also sought to reduce legal migration and end programs designed to assist at-risk populations through actions such as cutting the refugee admission ceiling from the 110,000 Obama initially set for FY 2017 to 45,000 in FY 2018. In addition, Trump put Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in limbo, affecting more than 700,000 people; the Central American Minors refugee and parole program; and Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for nationals of six countries, including El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

AS/COA Online looks at some of the key figures surrounding current U.S. immigration policy.