The nativist Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) recently issued a report titled, “Records Reveal Few Central Americans Deported,” to support their arguments to detain and deport more Central American children. The report centers on a comparison that, according to CIS, shows a 40 percent decline in deportations to Northern Triangle countries, while in reality, deportations have dramatically increased. In CIS’ long history of mischaracterizations, obfuscations, and fear-mongering, this might be CIS’ most blatant error yet.

The report misleadingly purports to compare partial fiscal year 2014 data on deportations, from October 1, 2013 to “as of the end of April [2014],” to fiscal year 2013 data “from the same point in 2013.” CIS has not released their data, as before. But ICE’s official full-year fiscal year 2013 data shows that CIS is comparing seven months’ partial 2014 data to 12 months’ full-year 2013 data.

Thus, CIS says that deportations to the three Northern Triangle countries—Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—have “declined by 40 percent” so far in FY 2014. Of course deportations would “decline” 40 percent if one counted seven months instead of 12. That’s counting 42 percent fewer days.

In reality, deportations to Northern Triangle countries have dramatically increased over the last decade, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of overall U.S. removals:

  • Removals from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador collectively increased nearly fivefold from 22,702 in FY 2004 (11.2% of U.S. removals) to 106,420 in FY 2013 (28.9 percent of U.S. removals).
  • This 469 percent increase in absolute removals far outpaces the 81.7% increase in overall U.S. removals.
  • And as a percentage of overall removals, Northern Triangle removals have increased two-and-a-half times, by 258 percent.

CIS uses their purported “decline” in deportations to argue for more detention and deportation resources. But reality, as usual, tells a much different story. The U.S. has built a “formidable machinery” for immigration enforcement, spending $18 billion per year—more than all other law enforcement agencies combined. Deportations have risen in turn, especially from the Northern Triangle. Besides, as reports detail, most children and families arriving recently are turning themselves over to Border Patrol agents once they cross the border.

The problem isn’t inadequate enforcement. The problem is child refugees fleeing violence, in need of humanitarian protection and aid, who may be deported back to violence and possible death.

Despite errors, CIS continues to influence the immigration debate. In May 2014, the House Judiciary Committee cited CIS’ report on criminal enforcement, also based on unreleased data, and called a hearing. CIS report author Jessica Vaughan has been called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Judiciary Committee. But blatant errors and inaccuracies call into question the reliability and methodology behind CIS’ reports.

Photo by Rachel Andrew.