Total deportations declined 25% to 235,415 in fiscal year 2015 from 315,943 in 2014, according to a report dated December 22, 2015 from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The leading countries of origin for those deported were Mexico (146,132), Guatemala (33,249) and El Salvador (21,920). 196 came from the Philippines.
There were also far fewer people trying to get into the United States through unlawful means as evidenced by 337,117 apprehensions nationwide in FY 2015, which was significantly lower than the 486,651 total in FY 2014. This put border apprehensions at a 40-year low.
Border patrol apprehensions of Mexican nationals decreased by 18% compared to FY 2014. Meanwhile, apprehensions of Central American diasporas particularly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala also decreased by 68% compared to FY 2014.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said that in 2015, they focused the agency’s limited resources to combating threats to national security, public safety and border security rather than expending funding on individuals charged with minor crimes like traffic violations.
Individuals convicted of significant or multiple misdemeanors, or individuals arrested inside the US who unlawfully entered or reentered the country or individuals who had significantly abused the visa or visa waiver programs became a second priority of the DHS. More focus was on individuals considered as national security threats, convicted felons or aggravated felons, members of active criminal gangs, and illegal entrants apprehended in the border.
There was a shift in their enforcement actions at port of entry focusing more on arrests of individuals wanted for serious offenses like murder, rape, assault and robbery. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested 8,246 individuals wanted for the aforesaid crimes and stopped 225,342 inadmissible individuals from entering the United States through ports of entry. The CBP also identified 11,611 high-risk travelers who would have been found inadmissible had they traveled to the United States, and who were prevented from boarding flights to the United States.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also placed more emphasis in going after convicted criminals as opposed to non-criminal immigration violators. It increased the percentage of deportation of felons by 3% over FY 2014 with a total of 139,368 removals or 59% of its total removals in 2015.
Another significant trend noted by the recent report is the rise of asylum seekers from Central America fleeing extreme violence in the region. Although apprehensions of individuals from countries other than Mexico- predominantly those from Central America- decreased by 68% in 2015, more nationals from these countries filed claims for protection under US law. During the early months of 2015 alone, USCIS received more asylum applications than the previous years.
As of October 2015, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that out of 16,077 females from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico who were subjected to fear screenings by US asylum officers, 82% proved a bona fide claim for asylum under the Convention against Torture.