Election 2016 Issues: Immigration and Presidential Deportations Roosevelt to Obama

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The issue of immigration has come to the forefront of the 2016 election. While some Republican candidates, like Trump, have supported a hardline stance on the issue, others, like Bush and Rubio, have taken more moderate positions.

Regardless, immigration will continue to dominate the upcoming debates, with the issue of deportation vs. amnesty especially divisive.

To gain a broader perspective on the issue, InsideGov looked back at historical immigration statistics. Using data from the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, InsideGov found the total number of deportations for each presidential administration (see notes below for detailed definitions).

While the numbers date back to the Guilded Age in American history, from 1870’s through the formation of the League of Nations in 1919, for the purposes of the immigration debate the modern era president of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

In general, deportations from the U.S. have increased greatly over the last few decades. Here’s how each president ranks in terms of total deportations:


1. The Department of Homeland Security defines deportation as the lawful expulsion of an undesired alien or other person from the United States. Under current definitions, deportation is measured by summing removals and returns in a given year.

2. Removals are defined as the compulsory and confirmed departure of a noncitizen based on an order of removal. Returns are defined as the confirmed departure of a removable noncitizen not based on an order of removal (e.g. a grant of voluntary departure).

3. Data on “removals” goes back to 1892, while data on returns goes back to 1927. Therefore, the total deportation numbers for the first presidents on this list are likely underestimates.

#18. Theodore Roosevelt


Total Deportations: 80,269
Total Removals: 80,269
Total Returns: N/A

#16. John F. Kennedy


Total Deportations: 122,753
Total Removals: 16,206
Total Returns: 106,547

#12. Franklin D. Roosevelt


Total Deportations: 286,816 Total Removals: 158,328
Total Returns: 128,488

#11. Lyndon B. Johnson


Total Deportations: 740,175
Total Removals: 56,500
Total Returns: 683,675

#10. Richard Nixon


Total Deportations: 2,014,334
Total Removals: 81,022
Total Returns: 1,933,312

#9. Gerald Ford


Total Deportations: 2,412,244
Total Removals: 82,316
Total Returns: 2,329,928

#8. Dwight D. Eisenhower


Total Deportations: 2,616,732
Total Removals: 110,019
Total Returns: 2,506,713

#7. Harry Truman


Total Deportations: 2,944,384
Total Removals: 154,164
Total Returns: 2,790,220

#6. Jimmy Carter


Total Deportations: 3,633,256
Total Removals: 105,378
Total Returns: 3,527,878

#5. Barack Obama


Total Deportations: 3,805,552
Total Removals: 2,017,814
Total Returns: 1,787,738

#4. George H. W. Bush


Total Deportations: 4,161,683
Total Removals: 141,326
Total Returns: 4,020,357

#3. Ronald Reagan


Total Deportations: 8,276,853
Total Removals: 168,364
Total Returns: 8,108,489

#2. George W. Bush


Total Deportations: 10,328,850
Total Removals: 2,012,539
Total Returns: 8,316,311

#1. Bill Clinton


Total Deportations: 12,290,905
Total Removals: 869,646
Total Returns: 11,421,259

Research U.S. Presidents on InsideGov

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