Home > Hot Topics > More Topics > Attrition Through Enforcement > 'But he hasn't got anything on.' LA Times clarifies Obama's deportation record; debunks prevailing myths

'But he hasn't got anything on.' LA Times clarifies Obama's deportation record; debunks prevailing myths


Two and a half years after President Obama told reporters that his deportation statistics were "a little deceptive" and three weeks after DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson confirmed that the current administration's deportation numbers are mostly made up of border apprehensions and are counted differently than in previous administrations, the Los Angeles Times has published an in-depth clarification of Obama's record.

The Times' April 1 story, "High deportation numbers are misleading," by Brian Bennett, goes where few in the media have gone before and unequivocally challenges the conventional wisdom. The subheadline reads: "Immigrants living illegally beyond the border area are less likely to be deported under 'deporter in chief' President Obama, contrary to widespread belief."

Among the mainstream media, Bennett is like the little child in the Hans Christian Anderson tale who shouts out "the emperor has no clothes!" even as the rest of the royal subjects have been pretending to see the garments, which they have heard so much about from the con artists who told tales of marvelous cloth that could only be seen by those who were fit for their office.

Bennett reports:

"The shift in who gets tallied helped the administration look tough in its early years but now may be backfiring politically. Immigration advocates plan protests across the country this week around what they say will be the 2 millionth deportation under Obama -- a mark expected to be hit in the next few days. And Democratic strategists fret about a decline in Latino voter turnout for this fall's election....

"....During the first two years after coming to office, Obama administration officials touted the record-setting deportation figures, hoping that strict enforcement at the border would convince Republicans to come to the negotiating table on immigration reform."

As I wrote in my previous blog, the strategy was to inflate the deportation numbers while reducing actual enforcement, yet the only people who have been fooled are immigration reporters and anti-enforcement activists (and no, they aren't always one and the same).

After years of hyping the enforcement record of the Obama administration, most in the mainstream media have been slow to acknowledge that the numbers were cooked all along. Like the people in Anderson's story, they have mostly stuck to the conventional wisdom that deportations have increased under Obama -- and at a record pace to boot.

How will the mainstream media ignore Bennett, who reports:

"...the portrait of a steadily increasing number of deportations rests on statistics that conceal almost as much as they disclose. A closer examination shows that immigrants living illegally in most of the continental U.S. are less likely to be deported today than before Obama came to office, according to immigration data.

"Expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40% since 2009.

"On the other side of the ledger, the number of people deported at or near the border has gone up -- primarily as a result of changing who gets counted in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's deportation statistics.

"The vast majority of those border crossers would not have been treated as formal deportations under most previous administrations. If all removals were tallied, the total sent back to Mexico each year would have been far higher under those previous administrations than it is now."

Later in the story, Bennett quotes John Sandweg, the former acting director of ICE. "If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally," Sandweg says, "your odds of getting deported are close to zero -- it's just highly unlikely to happen."

Bennett's reporting and Sandweg's estimation is consistent with earlier reporting by the Washington Times and with reports from the Center for Immigration Studies and Senator Jeff Sessions. Those, in turn, were consistent with President Obama's clarification from 2011:

"The statistics are actually a little deceptive because what we've been doing is, with the stronger border enforcement, we've been apprehending folks at the borders and sending them back. That is counted as a deportation, even though they may have only been held for a day or 48 hours, sent back -- that's counted as a deportation."

Rallies and protests continue against "The Deporter In Chief" and his "record" deportations. The press continues to cover the push to scale back immigration enforcement. Will they acknowledge that the "record deportation" claims are mere fabrications? Or will they, like the Emperor and his noblemen in Anderson's story, insist that the procession continue as if there were really something there?

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

NumbersUSA's blogs are copyrighted and may be republished or reposted only if they are copied in their entirety, including this paragraph, and provide proper credit to NumbersUSA. NumbersUSA bears no responsibility for where our blogs may be republished or reposted.

Views and opinions expressed in blogs on this website are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect official policies of NumbersUSA.