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U.S. court deportations fall 43 percent over five years: report

The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013. REUTERS/Samantha Sais
The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013. REUTERS/Samantha Sais

(Reuters) - Deportations through U.S. immigration courts have fallen 43 percent in the past five years as the federal government brought fewer cases before those courts, according to Justice Department data analyzed by the New York Times on Wednesday.

The figures come as President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Republicans clashed openly over immigration- reform legislation that remains stalled in the Republican-led House.

More than 11 million people are believed to be in the United States illegally. Many are children brought by their parents across the border from Mexico.

Obama, who has made immigration reform a priority, has drawn fire from advocacy groups and been called "deporter in chief" for presiding over an administration that has deported some 2 million people. But his administration brought 26 percent fewer cases in immigration courts in 2013 than in 2009, the New York Times reported.

Judges ordered deportations in some 105,000 of those cases in 2013, which is just part of total annual deportations. The lower numbers, however, contributed to an overall drop in removals in 2013, which saw nearly 370,000 deportations, a 10 percent decrease from 2012, the newspaper reported.

The Department of Homeland Security, which handles immigration prosecutions, opened 187,678 deportation cases in 2013, nearly 50,000 fewer than in 2011, the newspaper said. In addition, the courts increasingly are deciding against deportation and allowing immigrants to remain in the U.S., the Times said.

The analysis by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a branch of the Justice Department, looked at data through fiscal 2013.

Obama administration officials are also considering whether to allow bond hearings for long-detained undocumented immigrants. That could further decrease deportations, because immigration courts expedite cases of jailed immigrants, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.

Several thousand immigrants could be released nationwide if courts are allowed to hear cases and grant bond, the newspaper said, citing advocates.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Larry King)

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