WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration formally disclosed Tuesday that in the 2015 budget year, the U.S. deported the fewest immigrants since 2006.
The Homeland Security Department oversaw the deportation of about 235,413 people between October 2014 and September 2015. Over the same period, 337,117 people were arrested trying to cross the border illegally.
The Associated Press reported in October that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had deported about 231,000 people through Sept. 28.
DHS has previously said the drop in deportations overseen by ICE is largely due to the decline in arrests at the border. Border arrests dropped about 30 percent from 2014 to 2015. The 2015 border arrests included roughly 79,800 people traveling as families and children traveling alone, mostly from Central America.
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The overall total of deportations generally does not include Mexicans caught at the border and quickly returned home by the Border Patrol.
“Last year’s removal numbers reflect this department’s increased focus on prioritizing convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security and national security,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.
Roughly 136,700 convicted criminals were deported in the 2015 budget year. The share of criminal immigrants deported rose slightly from about 56 percent to roughly 59 percent from 2014 to 2015.
Obama’s immigration policies have been alternately criticized as too harsh and too weak.
Immigrant advocates derisively dubbed the president the “Deporter-In-Chief” after ICE removed a record of more than 409,000 immigrants in 2012.
Meanwhile, Republicans have decried his policies as “back-door amnesty.”
The questions of what to do with the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and how to enforce immigration laws have been major topics in the 2016 presidential race. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has pledged to be “less harsh and aggressive” than Obama, while Republican Donald Trump has pledged to deport millions of people in the country illegally and build a wall along the Mexican border to stop future illegal immigration.
Follow Alicia A. Caldwell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/acaldwellap