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Most Immigrants Deported Under Obama Had Thin or No Criminal Record

2 minute read

Most of the 2 million people who have been deported under President Barack Obama were expelled after committing minor infractions, despite Obama’s promise that his administration was targeting immigrants who were threats to the community.

The New York Times found in an investigation of government records that two-thirds of immigrants deported from the U.S. since 2008 committed minor traffic violations or had no criminal record at all. Another 20% — about 394,000 people — had a criminal record or faced drug charges.

Obama previously said his administration’s immigration enforcement strategy would go after “criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families.”

Deportations for traffic violations (including driving under the influence) have quadrupled since Obama took office, while deportations for entering (or re-entering) the country illegally have tripled.

In the last year of the George W. Bush administration, immigrants who were deported for nonviolent offenses were returned to their home country but not charged. The Obama administration reversed that policy, filing charges in 90% of such cases. Those charges prevent immigrants from returning to the U.S. for five years under threat of prison time.


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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com