For all the sound of fury from the Left about overzealous immigration enforcement, deportations to Mexico last month declined by about 3,600 from the same month in 2016, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics obtained by LifeZette Friday.

Overall, deportations to Mexico for the first three months declined by about 18.5 percent from the first quarter of last year, to 29,156.

“My gut check is, sometimes it takes a while for people who have been appointed to get in place.”

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Immigration officials cautioned that deportation numbers can fluctuate from month to month, making two or three months’ worth of data a poor gauge of long-term trends. Still, the numbers contrast with the anecdotal evidence from new media accounts of ICE officers as running amok under President Donald Trump.

“My gut check is, sometimes it takes a while for people who have been appointed to get in place,” said David Cross, a spokesman for Oregonians for Immigration Reform. “I’m not quick to judge … It’s early on in the administration.”

Immigration enforcement was the centerpiece of Trump’s campaign for president, and he moved quickly to change the practices of his predecessor. In January, he issued two executive orders redirecting priorities of ICE and the border patrol. That included a directive to return to routine enforcement, a break from former President Barack Obama’s policy of focusing almost exclusively on illegal immigrants who committed other crimes.

ICE removals peaked at 409,849 in fiscal year 2012 but then plummeted to 240,255 in the fiscal year that ended in September.

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[lz_table title=”Deportations to Mexico Decline” source=”Immigration and Customs Enforcement”]Month,2016,2017
January,10 742,9 865
February,11 372,9 288
March,13 656,10 003
|Total,35 770,29 156

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said it appears as if the statistics released Friday include both ICE cases in the interior of the country and illegal immigrants nabbed at the border and immediately returned. If that is the case, she said, a big drop in border crossings could explain the overall decrease in deportations to Mexico.

Vaughan said she expects the deportation numbers to rise over the rest of the year as cases make their way through immigration courts and the government adds detention space.

“There is nowhere to go but up because deportations were at their lowest levels in about 10 years,” she said.

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In 2011, the Obama administration instructed ICE to focus on illegal immigrants with felony and serious misdemeanor charges. A year later, the administration narrowed that focus to illegal immigrants convicted of those offenses or who had pending charges for more serious crimes.

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Then in 2014, the administration told ICE not to deport illegal immigrants who had deportation orders prior to that year as long as they had not committed other crimes and continued to check in with immigration authorities at regular intervals.

Vaughan said many of the deportations taking place now are “low-hanging fruit” involving illegal immigrants who already have been ordered to leave the country but received a reprieve from the Obama administration.

“A lot of the people they were targeting in these raids were people with prior deportation orders,” she said.