There are two types of deportation numbers. The first known as "returns" which are people caught at or near the boarder and immediately sent back whence they came. The other kind are "removals" they are what you may think of when you think of deportations, legal immigrants who have committed crimes, those who overstay visas, or illegal aliens caught inside the country away from the border.
The official DHS definition of Removal is “the compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States based on an order of removal.” The official definition of Returns is“the confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States not based on an order of removal. Most of the voluntary returns are of Mexican nationals who have been apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol and are returned to Mexico.” The primary difference between the two categories is that removals are processed by ICE, while returns are not.
Before Obama when ice reported "deportation" numbers they were talking about removals. In August 2012 Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) , then Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee explained that Obama was adding returns to the removal totals.
Since 2011, the Obama administration has included in its year-end deportation statistics the numbers from a Border Patrol program that returns illegal immigrants to Mexico right after they cross the border. It is dishonest to count illegal immigrants apprehended by the Border Patrol along the border as ICE removals. And these “removals” from the Border Patrol program do not subject the illegal immigrant to any penalties or bars for returning to the U.S. This means a single illegal immigrant can show up at the border and be removed numerous times in a single year — and counted each time as a removal. When the numbers from this Border Patrol program are removed from this year’s deportation data, it shows that removals are actually down nearly 20 percent from 2009. Another 40,000 removals are also included in the final deportation count but it is unclear where these removals came from.In an October 2011 roundtable with reporters from the Spanish media, President Obama himself said the deportation numbers were artificially high because they include those caught at the border:
“The statistics are actually a little deceptive because what we’ve been doing is, with the stronger border enforcement, we’ve been apprehending folks at the borders and sending them back. That is counted as a deportation, even though they may have only been held for a day or 48 hours, sent back – that’s counted as a deportation.”Jessica Vaughn provided the real numbers for Obama's first term in December 2013 in a post for the Center for Immigration Studies
Because the Obama administration has blurred the lines of which agencies can take credit for deportations, the only fair way to assess their performance is to count all deportations done by all the DHS agencies. These are reported every year in the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics in Table 39, which shows the number of "removals" and "returns" by all immigration enforcement agencies going back to 1927.
The real record for deportations belongs to the Clinton administration. Obama's total is lower than the last six administrations, even lower than Jimmy Carter's.The evidence is there, President Obama's claim of being a "deporter-in-chief" is almost as valid as his promise that under Obamacare people will be able to keep their health insurance and doctor. In a way it's Karma, his attempt to look as if he's enforcing the law by cooking the books
Sure, illegal border crossings, which generate the lion's share of all deportations, have slowed some during the Obama administration, and that's one reason why the Border Patrol is deporting fewer aliens, but the plain fact remains that the Obama administration has not deported more people than any recent previous administration – not even close. The other reason the Obama deportation numbers are low is because interior enforcement has been nearly dismantled due to executive-decree amnesties and so-called "prosecutorial discretion," which shields at least 90 percent of the illegal population from enforcement.