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Is Trump deporting ‘bad dudes’ at record rate?

Donald Trump saying: All of a sudden for the first time we're getting gang members out, we're getting drug lords out, we're getting really bad dudes out of this country and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before.

The claim: Since Donald Trump became president, the US has been, for the first time, deporting serious criminals, including gang members and drug lords, and the deportations are taking place at an unprecedented rate.

Reality Check verdict: The US has been deporting gang members and other serious criminals for many years. There is not enough data yet to say whether the rate of deportations has increased under President Trump.

On 25 January, President Trump signed an executive order that established a range of measures aimed at reducing illegal immigration. The new measures have widened the net for deportations and the category of people listed as a priority for removal includes those convicted of criminal offences, those who have engaged in “fraud or wilful misrepresentation”, and anyone an immigration officer may consider poses a threat to “public safety or national security”.

Donald Trump claimed that since he became president, the US was, for the first time, deporting the really serious criminals such as gang members and drug lords, and that deportations were taking place at an unprecedented rate.

He made similar claims on 28 February during an interview with Fox News about taking a tougher line on deportations.

The figures from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agency, which is the investigative arm of the Department for Homeland Security and responsible for deporting undocumented immigrants, show that from 2009 to 2016, the US removed a total of 2.75 million people.

The number of Ice removals peaked in 2012, but fell significantly by 2016. The Ice report suggests the fall was because the focus in recent years switched to removing smaller numbers of more serious criminals from the country.

The Obama administration introduced three levels of priority for deportations in 2014. The highest priority was removals of individuals identified as: “national security threats, convicted felons or aggravated felons, criminal gang participants, and illegal entrants apprehended at the border.”

Between 1 October 2015 and 30 September 2016, 58% of those who were deported were convicted criminals. By comparison, the proportion of criminals removed between the same dates in 2008 and 2009 were 31% and 35% respectively.

There were 2,057 individuals removed by the agency in 2016 who were classified as “suspected or confirmed gang members”. The agency does not list “drug lords” or individuals with drug-related criminal records as a category of removed persons.

So, what about the rate at which the agency is removing people from the US?

The latest available Ice figures run until January 2017. In that month, 17,833 individuals were removed, but the agency has not published the breakdown that would show the number of gang members deported. This was down from the previous month when 20,574 individuals were removed. The figure for January 2016 was very similar to the one from January 2017.

On 6 February 2017, Ice conducted operations that specifically targeted “convicted criminal aliens and other immigration enforcement priorities”. In total, more than 680 arrests were made in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and San Antonio.

On that date, Donald Trump had been president for 16 days. We do not have enough data to compare the rate of removal under his presidency with the previous rate.

So, whether the rate of deportations of serious criminals increases or decreases under the Trump administration remains to be seen.


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