Fox News is using a new report about the Obama administration's deportation of immigrants (legal and undocumented) to reinforce their narrative that President Obama is not committed to enforcing illegal immigration. In fact, the Congressional Research Service report proves the opposite: that the Obama administration has prioritized the removal of undocumented immigrants who are a danger to society, increasing the number of deportations by nearly 90 percent.
According to the study, which analyzed records from October 2008 -- before Obama was in office -- to July 2011, 46,734 undocumented immigrants were released within that three-year span. Of those, 7,283 or 15.9 percent, recommitted crimes within three years of their initial arrest and release. To put it in context, Americans' recidivism rate is about 40 percent.
But Fox News anchor Rick Folbaum described those findings as "revealing that illegal immigrants are more likely to return to jail after being arrested than citizens or even legal residents" -- which is the exact opposite of what the report concluded. According to the report, legal immigrants' recidivism rate was 16.5 percent. When taken together, the report found that 17 percent of legal and undocumented immigrants recommitted crimes within three years of their release.
Still, host Bill Hemmer stated that the report cast "fresh doubt on the president's immigration policy." Host Lou Dobbs promoted the findings, suggesting the Obama administration has an "anti-enforcement agenda."
Nothing is further from the truth. The Obama administration has prioritized the removal of dangerous undocumented immigrants. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director John Morton made this clear:
Over the past three and a half years, ICE has established clear priorities that focus our enforcement resources on aliens that pose a threat to public safety or national security, repeatedly violate our immigration laws or recently crossed our borders.
And the Obama administration has been unmatched in achieving this goal. When he took office in January 2009, over 114,000 undocumented immigrants convicted of a crime were deported from the U.S. By 2011, the Obama administration had increased that number by 89 percent.
In fact, last year, more than half of immigrants DHS deported were convicted criminals, the highest percentage in decades; for reference, in 2009, 35 percent of immigrants deported were convicted criminals.
Indeed, during Obama's three and a half years in office, ICE has deported more than 1.2 million undocumented immigrants. The annual average number of deportations under Obama is twice the annual average from President Bush's first term, and 30 percent higher than Bush's average when he left office. Every year of Obama's presidency, the number of undocumented immigrants removed from the country has steadily risen.
As to Fox's suggestion that undocumented immigrants commit more crimes, studies from the Southern Policy Law Center have found that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than the general public. And the Bureau of Justice Statistics proves that more undocumented immigrants does not equal more crime: From 1994 through 2004, the violent crime rate across the country dropped by more than 35 percent, and the property crime rate declined by 25 percent. During these same years, the undocumented immigrant population across the country doubled in size. Indeed, a USA Today report found that "violent crime is often lower near the border than the rest of a police agency's parent state -- which mirrored a nationwide trend in declining crime during the past decade."