Long before President Obama announced that he would his “phone and pen” to make law by Executive Order when Congress failed to act according to his agenda or timeframe, his administration took action to implement deportation by discretion

New figures released by the Department of Homeland Security reveal a four-year decline in deportations by the Obama administration, with a decrease from 409,000 in fiscal year 2012 to 235,000 in fiscal year 2015.

That figure indicates that less than 1 percent of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States are deported on an annual basis, the fewest since 2006, the sixth year of the George W. Bush administration.

This represents a four-year decline in deportations, even as President Obama attempts to portray himself as tough on immigration and Latino groups dub him “the Deporter-in-Chief.”

One key distinction in the deportation figures is the discrepancy in the way the word “deportation” is defined.

In the past, deportation described the process by which a person resident in the United States without permission would be returned to his homeland as “interior deportations.”

Instead, the Obama administration defines deportation to include those persons detained as they attempted to enter the United States at the border and simply turned back.

Claude Arnold, former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in charge of Southern California, said reducing the number of interior alien deportations is “a way to reduce your immigration enforcement without going through the legislative process of changing the law. It's a way of doing a pseudo-amnesty without legislatively doing an amnesty.”

Arnold also noted that the numbers of criminal alien deportations has also been reduced during the Obama administration, decreasing 27 percent from 86,923 in 2014 to 63,127 in 2015.

The practical impact of Obama administration policies is that fewer than one-half of one percent of all illegal immigrants who have not been convicted of a crime were deported during 2015.

“The fact is, someone doesn't want those laws enforced and it's plain to see,” said Arnold, a veteran of 27 years at ICE.

The president has been embroiled in a federal lawsuit over his deportation plan, and in November a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans upheld an injunction against his use of Executive Order to implement it, likely setting the stage for a fight at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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