Correction: The Deportation Deception Pre-emption

In our first major (known) blunder of 2014, we hit the “publish” button prematurely on a work that’s still early in progress. We unpublished that incomplete work from the “fact checks” category and have reproduced it in full in the “Corrections” category. We do not vouch for the accuracy of this work, which is a rough draft approximately halfway toward the finish line.

 

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PF National2“It’s too soon to say that Obama has deported more people than any other president. But with the information available, it looks like he’s on track to do so. We rate her claim Half True.”

—PolitiFact, summarizing a March 9, 2014 fact check of National Council of La Raza president Janet Murguía

 

Overview

PolitiFact’s balancing act on President Obama’s immigration enforcement record leaves readers under-informed. Is Obama the toughest president on illegal immigrants? Has Obama been lax on enforcement?

The Facts

PolitiFact first addressed President Obama’s immigration enforcement record in July 2010. Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos said “President Barack Obama has deported more people in his first year in office than George W. Bush in his last year in office.” PolitiFact rated the statement “Mostly True.”

PolitiFact’s next rating on deportation came in August 2012. Americans Principles in Action, a political action group PolitiFact linked to a conservative group, tried to appeal to hispanics in Nevada by saying Obama had conducted more deportations than any other president in U.S. history. PolitiFact rated the claim “Half True.”

In 2014 PolitiFact again rated a claim about deportation. This time the claim came from Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza. Murguía said Obama has deported nearly 2 million people, more than any other U.S. president. PolitiFact rated the claim “Half True.”

In the following analysis, we’ll look at how PolitiFact informs or misinforms its readers on deportation and immigration enforcement.

Analyzing the Rhetoric

We’ll look first at how deportation fits in with border security and how it has changed since the Department of Homeland Security came into being. After that we’ll look at whether PolitiFact crafted its stories to support a narrative about President Obama’s enforcement of immigration law.

Deportation, removals and returns

The Department of Homeland Security defines “deportation” as removal, defined as follows:

Deportation – The formal removal of an alien from the United States when the alien has been found removable for violating the immigration laws. Deportation is ordered by an immigration judge without any punishment being imposed or contemplated. Prior to April 1997 deportation and exclusion were separate removal procedures. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 consolidated these procedures. After April 1, 1997, aliens in and admitted to the United States may be subject to removal based on deportability.

 

PolitiFact’s 2014 fact check fully accepted the equivalence of deportation and removal. But more complications exist under the surface. DHS also uses “returns” to send illegal immigrants out of the country.

Return: The confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States not based on an order of removal.

 

Adding further complexity to our set of statistics, DHS has changed the way it counts the numbers. An Al Jazeera interview of former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official John Torres tells part of that story:

Back in 2007, we started counting what we called voluntary returns. The reason that the agency started counting those numbers is because even though in some instances there are voluntary returns, the agency would still put people on a bus or van and expend resources getting them across the border. For accounting purposes we started counting, but we put an asterisk next to it saying these are numbers we hadn’t counted before. At some point the asterisk got lost and everything started getting counted.

They also started removing people arrested by the border patrol. Historically, CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] would do their own voluntary returns at the border and send them back using their own resources. That changed at some point over the last two to three years. Those arrests would get turned over to ICE. That’s where I believe those numbers would be somewhat artificially inflated. Removal is a catchall category for voluntary returns and deportations.

 

 

The above definition does not mean that if deportable aliens simply go back to their country of origin it counts statistically as returns. Returns are apprehended first, so in terms of getting undocumented immigrants out of the country it is the same thing except less expensive

 

 

 

References

 

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/jul/06/jorge-ramos/obama-deported-more-people-his-first-year-bush-did/

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/aug/10/american-principles-action/has-barack-obama-deported-more-people-any-other-pr/

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/mar/17/janet-murguia/activist-janet-murguia-calls-obama-deporter-chief-/

http://www.dhs.gov/definition-terms#3

 

https://www.dhs.gov/yearbook-immigration-statistics-2012-enforcement-actions

http://www.ice.gov/removal-statistics/

http://blog.heritage.org/2014/03/14/dhs-chief-confirms-inflation-deportation-numbers/

http://www.pewresearch.org/key-data-points/immigration-tip-sheet-on-u-s-public-opinion/

http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/built-last-how-immigration-reform-can-deter-unauthorized-immigration

http://blog.pe.com/multicultural-empire/2014/04/02/illegal-immigration-ways-of-counting-deportations/

Voluntary Departure vs. Voluntary Return vs. Deportation

http://foiarr.cbp.gov/streamingWord.asp?j=237

 

 

Back in 2007, we started counting what we called voluntary returns. The reason that the agency started counting those numbers is because even though in some instances there are voluntary returns, the agency would still put people on a bus or van and expend resources getting them across the border. For accounting purposes we started counting, but we put an asterisk next to it saying these are numbers we hadn’t counted before. At some point the asterisk got lost and everything started getting counted.

They also started removing people arrested by the border patrol. Historically, CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] would do their own voluntary returns at the border and send them back using their own resources. That changed at some point over the last two to three years. Those arrests would get turned over to ICE. That’s where I believe those numbers would be somewhat artificially inflated. Removal is a catchall category for voluntary returns and deportations.

http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/inside-story/articles/2014/4/11/experts-weigh-inwhatsdoesthefutureholdforusdeportees.html

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