PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP made immigration a hallmark issue of his campaign, and in the first week of his presidency, he signed executive orders suspending immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, bolstering border patrol and deportation efforts and starting the funding process for the promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Immigrants appeared to have responded, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection reportingrecord-low apprehensions at the southwest border in 2017. Yet, despite his hard-line rhetoric, Trump has still deported fewer immigrants than President Barack Obama did in each of the early years of his term.
In 2017, the number of people apprehended or otherwise deemed inadmissible while trying to gain admission at a port of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border fell dramatically. Assuming apprehension tactics remained the same, the numbers suggest fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally.
The number of apprehensions alone for fiscal 2017 hit its lowest total since 1971, according to data from the U.S. Border Patrol.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's annual report describes this trend as "possibly reflecting an increased deterrent effect from ICE's stronger interior enforcement efforts."
Trump signed an executive order five days into his presidency that called for a host of enhanced border protection efforts, including more border patrol agents and an end to the "catch-and-release" policy for handling immigrants apprehended while illegally crossing.
The number of people apprehended or otherwise deemed inadmissible each month fell most sharply between Trump's election and inauguration, suggesting a correlation with the incoming president's policy plans.
Those border apprehensions have rebounded somewhat in recent months.
The overall lower numbers of people apprehended at the border means the U.S. government also clocks fewer deportations at the border. Accordingly, border deportations have decreased under Trump.
But that drop has been coupled with more aggressive deportation policies for "interior deportations," or those immigrants already inside the country. Increased interior deportations mostly offset the decline in border deportations, so total deportations dropped by just 6 percent, or 14,136 people, from fiscal 2016 to 2017.
Yet these deportation totals pale in comparison to the removal numbers of the early Obama administration. ICE deportations under Obama peaked at 409,849 in fiscal 2012 – nearly double the agency's deportations during fiscal 2017, which included the final four months of Obama's term and the first eight months of Trump's presidency.
Total deportations by ICE hovered around 400,000 annually in each of the first four years of Obama's presidency. Interior deportations alone exceeded 150,000 annually from fiscal 2009 to 2012 – far greater than Trump's 81,603 during fiscal 2017.
Deportations fell throughout Obama's term, driven largely by declining numbers of interior deportations. Apprehensions at the border also dropped during this period, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, further contributing to the eventual deportation drop.