Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.
As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Northwest Deportations Dropped By Half In 2014

A dozen protesters block the entrance to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma in February 2014. Deportations from the Northwest have declined by nearly half, but now a larger proportion of deportees have a clean record.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
/
A dozen protesters block the entrance to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma in February 2014. Deportations from the Northwest have declined by nearly half, but now a larger proportion of deportees have a clean record.

  Deportations of undocumented immigrants declined across the country this year. But in the Pacific Northwest, the numbers took a nosedive. New data show U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported only about half as many people as last year from Oregon, Washington and Alaska. 

In fiscal year 2014, ICE deported 2,341 people from the Northwest compared to 4,525 the year before. That's a drop of 48 percent.

On a conference with reporters Friday, federal immigration officials were quick to share the blame about why their numbers have fallen off. They pointed to local law enforcement.

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "There's another notable change in Northwest statistics: Most of the people deported from Oregon, Washington and Alaska had a clean criminal record.", "style": "inset"}]]  ICE routinely asks local jails to hold people who are flagged for immigration issues. But increasingly, local authorities decline those hold requests, or detainers. ICE says all local jurisdictions in Washington have limited their cooperation with these holds. Most counties in Oregon have also limited these holds.

There’s another notable change in Northwest statistics. In both 2012 and 2013, 68 percent of people deported from this region were criminals. But in 2014, that number dropped to 42 percent, meaning that most of the people deported from Oregon, Washington and Alaska had a clean criminal record. ICE officials explain that’s due to the record influx of asylum seekers caught at the southern border who were later transferred to Tacoma.

"The unprecedented surge of unaccompanied children and families last summer, as well as the increasing number of jurisdictions declining to honor ICE detainers, also impacted DHS enforcement operations," said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in a press release.

"Notwithstanding these challenges, DHS components have adjusted and continue to successfully secure our borders and protect our communities.”

At the national level, ICE says 85 percent of people deported this year were convicted criminals.

While the Northwest saw a steep decline in deportations this year, the national drop was a less dramatic at 14 percent, which is a still in the same ballpark as recent years. National deportations declined about 10 percent in 2013 and 19 percent the year before.

Year started with KUOW: 2006