The Obama administration set records for the high number of deportations through most of its first three years in office, then in the summer of 2011, the president announced a major policy change.
President Obama said the government would review 300,000 deportation cases, sort out the "low-priority" offenders and concentrate on deporting immigrants with criminal records. But it's hard to tell how that policy change is going because the government has balked at releasing deportation records.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a research center at Syracuse University, has tried to get the information from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for several months now, without success.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, TRAC requested case-by-case information in anonymous form on the 75,044 Notices to Appear that the agency filed in immigration courts during the first four months of 2012. TRAC said it wanted the information "to allow a fuller public examination of the characteristics of the individuals ICE was seeking to deport."
In other words, is the government really going after immigrants with criminal records and not messing with "low-priority" offenders?
ICE responded in a letter, saying it had no way to locate any information on the recent deportation proceedings. But TRAC didn't buy it:
"This seems a most curious contention on your part," the researchers wrote in response. "Your letter does not explain how the agency could readily identify that there were precisely 75,044 cases. It appears that it had no difficulty locating these cases to compile its counts, but it somehow is unwilling to use these same methods when the public desires information about them."
Clearly, the Obama administration and ICE need to try a little harder and produce these records. The public has the right to know who the government is deporting and whether it is living up to its promise to change policy.