The Associated Press reported Tuesday that overall, deportation of immigrants from the United States dropped 42% since 2012. And deportation rates in the last 12 months have fallen to levels not seen since 2006.
The figures, obtained by The AP, show that criminal deportations have seen a notable drop. From The AP:
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last year directed immigration authorities anew to focus on finding and deporting immigrants who pose a national security or public safety threat, those who have serious criminal records or those who recently crossed the Mexican border.
The AP suggests the decline could mean that the United States has not been able to locate immigrant criminals in the country, or that the crimes committed by immigrants weren't serious enough to warrant deportation.
Deportations of non-immigrants has also decreased, by 84,000, between 2014 and 2015. That marks the largest year-to-year decline since 2012, per The Associated Press.
The reductions have been steady over the past few years. The New York Times reported last year that this is thanks, in part, to policy changes in the Obama Administration, which has long been criticized by immigration reform advocates for high deportation rates. From the Times:
The steepest drop in deportations filed in the courts came after 2011, when the administration began to apply more aggressively a policy of prosecutorial discretion that officials said would lead to fewer deportations of illegal immigrants who had no criminal record. Last year the Department of Homeland Security opened 187,678 deportation cases, nearly 50,000 fewer than in 2011.
An executive action signed by the president last year could also significantly reduce deportation rates, but has been stalled by lawsuits. The Times noted in 2014 that the decline in deportation rates could be aided by the undocumented immigrants themselves, who were seeking legal help more often than in the past.
The Associated Press also notes that the decrease could be cause by something more technical— an influx of immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other countries that don't share a border with the U.S. Mexican immigrants who cross the border and sent immediately back by border control aren't considered in deportation figures. Deportations of others is more complex, which could slow the rate overall.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.