Immigration Deportations Under Obama On Pace To Far Exceed Those Under Bush Administration

Based on the numbers, Barack Obama is an immigration hawk.

Listening to the Republican candidates for President, you’d think that Barack Obama was a big softy when it came to illegal immigratn and that we had basically given up deporting anyone. A look at the numbers over the past 32 months, though, reveals a far different, potentially disturbing, picture:

President Barack Obama says he backs immigration reform, announcing last month an initiative to ease deportation policies, but he has sent home over 1 million illegal immigrants in 2-1/2 years — on pace to deport more in one term than George W. Bush did in two.

The Obama administration had deported about 1.06 million as of September 12, against 1.57 million in Bush’s two full presidential terms.

This news comes at the same time that Republican candidates like Mitt Romney are saying stuff like this:

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, reaching out to a critical voting bloc in a pivotal Electoral College state, today told a group of Hispanics in Florida that President Obama hasn’t even attempted to resolve the nation’s immigration issues.

“Three years ago, Candidate Obama promised to address the problems of illegal immigration in America. He failed. The truth is, he didn’t even try,” Romney said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Republican National Hispanic Assembly in Tampa, Fl

At that time that Romney made those remarks at the start of the month, deportations under Obama had just passed the 1 million mark. At the current pace, Obama would pass Bush’s record over two terms by the end of his first term. If that pace kept up in a second Obama term, deportations would total over 4 million. If that’s not trying, then I’d hate to see what trying actually looks like.

Adam Serwer laments the milestone:

Despite the administration’s stated focus on unauthorized immigrants with criminal records, more than half of those deported had no criminal records, 54 percent to 46 percent. But that number doesn’t convey what percentage of removals categorized as criminal include serious or violent offenses as opposed to minor ones.

Theoretically Obama’s strict enforcement policies were supposed to lay the groundwork for comprehensive immigration reform. But being a bigger enforcement hawk than Bush not only didn’t bring any Republicans to the table; it also hasn’t torn them from the alternate universe in which Obama is mailing green cards to every unauthorized immigrant in the country. Give that more than half of Latino voters know someone who is undocumented, there could be subsantial consequences for the president when he seeks to win the Latino vote again in 2012. There’s always the possibility, though, that the GOP will rescue the president’s standing among Latino voters when they seek to harness the anti-immigrant fervor of their base.

It’s hard to know how Hispanic voters are reacting to this, or how it might affect 2012. The anti-immigrant fervor in the GOP has caused the party to lose substantial support among Hispanics in states like California, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt the party much in Florida where the Hispanic population is heavily Cuban and Senator Marco Rubio, who has eschewed his party’s hardline stances on immigration, is a rising political star. For the most part, it seems like Hispanics who voted for Obama in 2008 are unlikely to jump ship over immigration if only because the GOP is worse on the issue from their point of view.

The more important fact here, though, is that conservatives who continue to weave the tale that Barack Obama is weak on immigration enforcement simply aren’t being honest. In fact, right now he’s making George W. Bush look an Open Borders supporter.  In the meantime, any hope of immigration reform is dead on Capitol Hill thanks to the refusal of a substantial bloc of the GOP to even consider the possibility of repeating the amnesty that Ronald Reagan granted in 1986 as part of a comprehensive deal. If Romney wants to find someone to blame for the reason why we still haven’t solved our immigration problems, he needs to spend some time talking to his fellow Republicans rather than making up stories that simply aren’t true.

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Borders and Immigration, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. mantis says:

    The more important fact here, though, is that conservatives who continue to weave the tale that Barack Obama is weak on immigration enforcement simply aren’t being honest.

    They aren’t honest on any issue. Not one.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    Obama is operating to the right-of-center. His signature accomplishment is a Republican policy.
    The problem for the Teavangelicals is one of perspective. The so-called republicans are so far off the starboard side that from their vantage point anything still on the boat looks like it’s on the port rail .

  3. ponce says:

    Despite the administration’s stated focus on unauthorized immigrants with criminal records, more than half of those deported had no criminal records, 54 percent to 46 percent.

    “Bush’s removals were 41 percent criminal and 59 non-criminal, according to data provided by ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen.”

    Looks like Obama has increased the percentage of deportees who are criminals.

    A little advice to the Republicans counting on this or that minority group abandoning the Democrats next year: Don’t count on it.

  4. Victor says:

    Once the illegal immigrants have been arrested their options to getting freed are too few.

    The prognosis isn’t too good for them if the system isn’t fixed. Perhaps the statistics support the trend and most of them don’t come back?

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    Explanation from a Jan/Jay Tea/Sam as to why either:
    1. Those facts aren’t really facts because, well, because I don’t like them.
    2. How it’s really not Obama’s doing, but somehow because of Bush’s policies (the OBL tactic).


  6. mantis says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    No, in this case I think they take the opposite tack: concern trolling. “Oh, those Hispanics who supported Obama sure have egg on their face now. What happened to Hope and Change? Teleprompters, also, too.”

    They’ll just ignore the fact that they are concern trolling against their own positions. That’s because they don’t really care about the issues, policy, principles, or the good of the country. The only goal is to piss off liberals.

  7. mattb says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Remember that according to Sam’s “contributions” that he’s apparently a “democrat” whose party left him. You know he keeps hoping for a “moderate” to challenge that radical Obama (of course, he thinks that this can’t happen because of the entire *race* thing — you know that anyone who disagrees with Obama [on the basis of… you know, him being … well… black even though he’s really only half black] is called a racist).

  8. mattb says:

    BTW, continuing this edition of everything the Right thinks is up is down. check out David Frum’s posting on the Texas “Miracle”:

    In terms of numbers, between the second quarter of 2007, right before the recession began, and the second quarter of 2011, total employment in Texas increased by 279,000. Of this, 225,000 jobs went to immigrants (legal and illegal) who arrived in the United States in 2007 or later.

    The share of working-age natives holding a job in Texas declined significantly, from 71 percent in 2007 to 67 percent in 2011. This decline is very similar to the decline for natives in the United States as a whole and is an indication that the situation for native-born workers in Texas is very similar to the overall situation in the country despite the state’s job growth.
    David Frum ( citing report from (

  9. Hey Norm says:

    You have to note on this topic that, as Frum points out, of the jobs created in Texas since 2007…81 percent were taken by newly arrived immigrant workers…both legal and illegal.
    Perry is being very permissive about immigration…including illegal immigration…because it is benefitting him personally even while it is hurting native Texans. Obama on the other hand is throwing immigrants out. Yet the Teavangelicals are supporting Perry.
    Lesson: nothing makes much sense when you have tea bags dangling from your tricorn.

  10. Hey Norm says:

    dammit MattB you beat me to it…

  11. mattb says:

    @Hey Norm: Great minds or something. Either that or it’s that daily e-mail George Soros and Ed Schultz sends out.

  12. Terrye says:


    You are missing something here. In the last couple of years of the Bush administration changes were made in regards to both apprehension and deportation. More people were hired to patrol the borders, catch and release was ended and the number of civil proceedings for deportation jumped up. In fact more people were deported in the last two years of Bush’s time in office than were deported in the first 5 or so years. Obama has kept a lot of those policies in place.

    That means that more people were deported under Bush than under Clinton and more people are still being deported.

  13. Terrye says:

    @mantis: Here is honesty. In 2001 the number of people deported was about 77,000…in 2008, the number was about 346,000. In Bush’s second term there was a lot of pressure brought to bear on government when it came to immigration. Bush dedicated more resources to the problem and the number of deportations rose. That trend has continued into the Obama administration.

  14. WR says:

    @Terrye: Yup, it’s actually Bush who’d deporting them illegals, just like he led the Seal team to kill OBL. It’s truly astonishing how GWB is singlehandedly responsible for everything that happens under Obama, except for the economy, which is all Obama’s fault despite the fact that it tanked in 2008.

    At least Terrye wins the prize. She even beat Jan to this…

  15. Xenos says:

    Seeing no reason to think otherwise, why not assume Terrye’s comment is offered in good faith? Bush came around to a more strict/effective policy regarding removals (they are not called ‘deportations’ anymore), and Obama has continued that policy with slightly better focus on the removal of criminals.

    So points for both sides. Yay. Next kerfuffle, please.

  16. mattb says:

    The issue is not so much did it start with Bush as it is the fact that current GOP common thought is that Obama has reversed the Bush trajectory, not accelerated them (which he has done).

    And so commentors here (and pundits and candidates out there) continue this myth that the Obama administration is enacting pro-undocumented immigrant policies and weakening our border, while the opposite is the demonstrative fact. But of course that fact violates the rediculous model that they have invested in — namely that this is the most radical “socialist/marxist/open-border/communist” president that we have ever had (and that he represents the fringe left of America).

  17. Rob in CT says:


    The myth is that Obama is “soft” on illegal immigration.

    Terrye’s comment is fine. That’s not the issue.