File photo. Photograph:( Getty )
With Manoj Kewalramani
In a matter of days, President-elect Donald Trump will take office as the 45th President of the United States.
Immigration is at the top of the Trump administration’s agenda. Post victory, Trump’s vision on immigration reads, "Establish new immigration controls to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first".
Reports say that there are 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. Trump has scaled back his promise to deport them all, but says he still plans to deport between two to three million.
The Obama Era
While many have seen this as a radical departure from the past, if one analyses the numbers it is clear that the Barack Obama administration has not really been soft when it comes to dealing with migrants.
Data from the US Department of Homeland Security shows that a record high number of removals were carried out during the eight years of Obama's presidency.
As per the numbers, more than 2.7 million immigrants were deported from the United States between 2009 and 2015. The maximum number of deportations during the Obama presidency took place in 2013.
However, the data also shows that there has been a sharp decline in deportations of criminals and non-criminals during the last few years of the Obama administration.
The number of non-criminal deportations dropped by 22 per cent in 2015, while deportations post criminal convictions fell by 17 per cent. Most of these deportations were to countries in North America, followed by countries in South America and Asia.
What about South Asians?
Focussing specifically on South Asia, under Obama, criminal and non-criminal deportations to six South Asian countries, excluding the Maldives, dropped drastically when compared to the Bush administration.
From 2009 to 2015, the US deported 7,496 people around South Asia. In contrast, during the Bush era, a total of 11,554 South Asians were deported.
During the Bush era, the number of deportations spiked in 2005, hitting the highest level in 2006. On the other hand, the Obama administration recorded high number of deportations at the beginning of his term.
That number has dropped significantly towards the end of his tenure. While the number of criminal deportations remained consistent, the number of non-criminal deportation halved.
How Obama differs from Trump?
A report by the Pew Research Center says that the sharp decline in numbers could have been due to a change in the deportation enforcement priorities by the administration. This change has led to a shift, focusing "exclusively on only those who have been convicted of a crime; those deemed a threat to public safety; and those who have recently crossed the border".
Further, a report by the Center of Immigration Studies claims that the immigrations office has eased enforcement, thereby putting less people on the path to deportation.
Those are priorities that are likely to change under a Trump presidency. Reports suggest that Trump is expected to target not just those considered a security threat or threat to public safety, but also those who have either arrived in the US illegally or have overstayed their visas.
Trump’s statements about deporting anyone who has entered the US illegally hint at a possible re-look at Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which was brought into force to protect young immigrants brought illegally into the United States as children.
There are also concerns that the new president could tinker with the rules, such as redefining what constitutes a criminal act, in order to make it easier to deport people, while arguing that the administration was focussed on deporting those with criminal records. However, with the recent protests on the streets and by legislators, pushing through these changes is not likely to be an easy process.