Deportation and removal from the United States

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A US Border Patrol watches the US-Mexico barrier.

Deportation and removal from the United States occurs when the U.S. government orders a person to leave the country. In fiscal year 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted 315,943 removals.[1] Criteria for deportations are set out in 8 U.S.C. § 1227.

In the 105 years between 1892 and 1997, the United States deported 2.1 million people.[2] Between 1993 and 2001, during the Presidency of Bill Clinton, about 1,870,000 people were deported.[3] Between 2001 and 2008, during the Presidency of George W. Bush, about 2.0 million people were deported, while between 2009 and 2016, during the Presidency of Barack Obama, about 3.2 million people were deported.[4]


18th century[edit]

The first deportations from the United States took place in 1794 by Massachusetts, following a rush of poor Irish immigrants to the U.S. east coast, under a 1794 Massachusetts law which permitted such deportations.[5]

A few years later, the U.S. Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, under which new powers were granted to deport non-citizens. Specifically, the Alien Enemies Act allowed the U.S. government to deport any male over the age of 14 who was from a nation who was considered an enemy during war. Also, the Alien Friend Act granted the president the power to deport any non-citizen who was suspected to be plotting against the U.S. government.[6]

19th century[edit]

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first U.S. law that required the exclusion and deportation of a particular racial group. Chinese immigrants already in the country were only allowed to re-enter the country if they left with certifications.[5] In addition, they were stripped of the right to U.S. citizenship, while the possibility of being deported remained.[7] When the act expired, Congress passed the Geary Act which extended the Chinese Exclusion Act by another ten years, and changed the living conditions for Chinese immigrants living in the U.S. as it stated that they had to have a certificate of residence and could be deported if they didn't have it.[7]

20th century[edit]

In 1919 and 1920, thousands of immigrants were deported as the Palmer Raids began to take place. These raids occurred under the Justice Department, and were led by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer who established the General Intelligence Division within the Federal Bureau of Investigation.[8]

The National Immigration Act of 1924 regulated immigration in the U.S. and established a quota for granting visas. Under this law, only 2% of immigrants from a certain nationality were given visas while it did not apply to immigrants from Asia.[9]

In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, between 355,000 and 1.8 million Mexicans and Mexican Americans were deported or repatriated to Mexico, an estimated 40 to 60% of whom were U.S. citizens - overwhelmingly children. This became known as the Mexican Repatriation. Some of the repatriations by local governments took place in the form of raids. At least 82,000 people were formally deported between 1929 and 1935 by the government. Voluntary repatriations were more common than deportations.[10][11]

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 created preferences for immigration to the U.S. based on desired skilled-workers and family reunification. Aside from that, it also made the process of deportation easier, as it permitted people to be fined as well as arrested if they were living with an undocumented immigrant or rented a home to one.[12] The rise of Mexican deportation continued during World War II, through a program established by the collaboration of the U.S. government and the Mexican government, known as the Bracero Program.[5] This program allowed for the short-term legal immigration of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. for the purposes of filling the gap of agricultural workers due to the war. Along with that, a wave of undocumented Mexican immigrants migrated to the U.S. in search of these job opportunities as well.[5] As a result, Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. created Operation Wetback, which was responsible for the deportation of around 300,000 undocumented Mexican immigrants.[13]

In 1996, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 created a new approach to deporting terrorists, as defined by the Act.[14] It did so, by expanding the list of committed crimes that could lead to the deportation of an undocumented immigrant. It also granted the U.S. government power to deport permanent residents who were convicted of an aggravated felony.[15] In addition, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996[5] strengthened the U.S. border control by establishing criminal penalties for things like using fake visas and permitted the deportation of undocumented immigrants who committed a misdemeanor.[16]

21st century[edit]

On June 4, 2019 a large group of undocumented immigrants were apprehended by Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents at the U.S.- Mexican Border.

President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act in 2002[17] under which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created. Following the establishment of this department, enforcement procedures intensified with the creation of subset organizations such as the Bureau of Border Security along with the creation of the detention and removal program.[18] During Barack Obama's presidency, over 2.5 million undocumented immigrants were deported.[19] Obama focused on the removal of criminals, and passed an executive order titled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012, providing temporary amnesty from deportation to undocumented immigrants who migrated to the U.S at a young age.[20] The federal funding for immigration enforcement in 2012 increased to $18 billion, which allowed for the immense increase in illegal immigration enforcement and deportations.[20]

During Donald Trump’s presidency the number of undocumented immigrants deported decreased drastically.[21] While under Trump's presidency, U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement has conducted hundreds of raids in workspaces and sent removal orders to families, they are not deporting as many immigrants as were deported under Obama's presidency. In Obama's first three years in office, around 1.18 million people were deported, while around 800,000 deportations took place under Trump in his three years of presidency.[21]


Deportation and removal from the United States has drawn scrutiny, especially with detention and removal practices of people from the United States.

Attorneys have criticized ICE for moving children from shelters into ICE detention facilities. ICE age verification methods have proves fundamentally flawed in assigning ages to minors. ICE uses dental radiographs of third molars to determine whether a detained person is a minor or adult, but these radiographs are often flawed and the detained people, nor their advocates, give consent to these tests.[22] A third molar dental radiograph test only estimates a general age range, which regularly crosses between an adult and a minor. The effects of these radiograph tests has led to the misplacement of the minors in adult immigration detention facilities, and sometimes even adults placed in minor detention facilities. This American Life produced a story of a 19-year-old woman who was thought to be the victim of human trafficking. After attempting to tell immigration authorities her real age, a dental radiograph test was administered to her that categorized her as a minor.[23]

Additionally, critics have blasted the detention period before deportation while a detained person's case is in litigation. News outlets uncovered as many as 150 buildings, from government buildings to office parks, and 80 hospitals that work as temporary holding sites for detained migrants. Critics, though, routinely refer to these holding locations as "black sites."[24] One such detention site was in the same building that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas). People in ICE custody stay at these locations, sometimes for days, all with little knowledge of people around these sites.

Top 10 countries of origin of deportees in the U.S.

Fiscal year 2018[25]
Country of origin Number of deported immigrants
1. Mexico 139,330
2. Guatemala 52,755
3. Honduras 32,180
4. El Salvador 16,141
5. Dominican Republic 1,827
6. Brazil 1,787
7. Ecuador 1,304
8. Colombia 1,157
9. Nicaragua 1,113
10. India 831
Fiscal year 2014[26]
Country of origin Number of deported immigrants
1. Mexico 176,968
2. Guatemala 54,423
3. Honduras 40,695
4. El Salvador 27,180
5. Dominican Republic 2,130
6. Ecuador 1,565
7. Nicaragua 1,266
8. Colombia 1,181
9. Jamaica 938
10. Brazil 850
Fiscal year 2010[27]
Country of origin Number of deported immigrants
1. Mexico 282,242
2. Guatemala 29,378
3. Honduras 24,611
4. El Salvador 19,809
5. Dominican Republic 3,309
6. Brazil 3,109
7. Ecuador 2,321
8. Colombia 2,267
9. Nicaragua 1,847
10. Jamaica 1,475

Court cases[edit]

In 1893, Chinese immigrants challenged U.S. deportation laws in Fong Yue Ting v. United States. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S., as a sovereign nation, could deport undocumented immigrants and such immigrants did not have the right to a legal hearing because deportation was a method of enforcing policies and not a punishment for a crime.[5] In Yamataya v. Fisher (1993), also known as the Japanese Immigrant Case, the Supreme Court ruled that the decisions of administrative or executive officers acting under their delegated powers constituted due process of law and were not subject to judicial review.

In fiscal year 2013, 83% of deportation orders came from immigration officers.[28] In 1904, free speech activists attempted to defend an immigrant from England named John Turner, who was a self-proclaimed anarchist, in Turner v. Williams. These activists failed to do so, as the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant undocumented immigrants the right to freedom of speech and defended the government's power to deport immigrants in this court's ruling.[5]

In April 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in Barton v. Barr, expanded the list of committed crimes that could lead to the deportation of immigrants, to include those who have green cards.[29] The suit was filed by Jamaican immigrant Andre Barton who tried to get the order for his removal cancelled.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fiscal Year 2017 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report". Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  2. ^ "Obama Deported More People Than Any Other President?". October 20, 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  3. ^ "Ted Cruz gets it very wrong on recent presidents' deportation numbers". The Washington Post. December 16, 2015. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  4. ^ "Obama deported record number of immigrants, despite Trump's claim". New York Daily News. September 1, 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Deportation in the United States | CIVICS - Your source for public affairs research". Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  6. ^ Editors, History com. "Alien and Sedition Acts". HISTORY. Retrieved 2020-04-25.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b "Our Documents - Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)". Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  8. ^ "Palmer Raids | History, Facts, & Significance". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  9. ^ "Milestones: 1921–1936 - Office of the Historian". Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  10. ^ Gratton, Brian; Merchant, Emily (December 2013). "Immigration, Repatriation, and Deportation: The Mexican-Origin Population in the United States, 1920-1950" (PDF). 47 (4). The International migration review. pp. 944–975.
  11. ^ Little, Becky. "The U.S. Deported a Million of Its Own Citizens to Mexico During the Great Depression". HISTORY. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  12. ^ "Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952". Immigration to the United States. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  13. ^ "Operation Wetback | United States immigration law-enforcement campaign". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  14. ^ Stephens, Robert W. (2012), "Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (U.S.)", in Loue, Sana; Sajatovic, Martha (eds.), Encyclopedia of Immigrant Health, Springer, pp. 207–208, doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-5659-0_44, ISBN 978-1-4419-5659-0
  15. ^ Dole, Robert J. (1996-04-24). "S.735 - 104th Congress (1995-1996): Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996". Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  16. ^ "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  17. ^ "Homeland Security Act | United States [2002]". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  18. ^ "AILA - Section-by-Section Summary of the Homeland Security Act of 2002". Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  19. ^ "Obama Has Deported More People Than Any Other President". ABC News. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  20. ^ a b Bolter, Muzaffar Chishti, Sarah Pierce Muzaffar Chishti, Sarah Pierce, and Jessica (2017-01-25). "The Obama Record on Deportations: Deporter in Chief or Not?". Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  21. ^ a b Budryk, Zack (2019-11-18). "Deportations lower under Trump administration than Obama: report". TheHill. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  22. ^ Stevens, Jacqueline (2019-07-12). "States without Nations: Age Assessments for Unaccompanied Children: Alternative Facts, Policies, and Logic". States without Nations. Retrieved 2021-02-19.
  23. ^ "My Very Unhappy Birthday". This American Life. 2019-07-13. Retrieved 2021-02-19.
  24. ^ Najmabadi, Shannon (2018-08-29). "Across the country, basements, offices and hotels play short-term host to people in ICE custody". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 2021-02-19.
  25. ^ "Infographic: The Nationalities Deported From The U.S. In 2018". Statista Infographics. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  26. ^ "Fiscal Year 2014 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report". Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  27. ^ "Home". Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Supreme Court rules green card-holding immigrant subject to deportation". Washington Examiner. 2020-04-23. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  30. ^ "Barton v. Barr". Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law. Retrieved 2020-04-26.