Figure 1-3 Returns and removals of unauthorized immigrants, 2001-2010.

SOURCE: Data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2011b:Table 36.

removed. DHS has also expanded programs, such as Secure Communities, that screen for removable immigrants who come into contact with the criminal justice system.1 As a result of such initiatives, the number of formal removals has roughly doubled between 2001 and 2010 (Figure 1-3).2,3

During the same period, the U.S. economy shed millions of jobs, and the unemployment rate more than doubled from 4.6 percent in 2007 to 9.6 percent in 2010. The decline in employment prospects in the United States may have acted as a deterrent to immigration. Thus, the number of apprehensions may have declined even if no change occurred in DHS’s effectiveness and DHS continued to apprehend illegal crossers at the same rate as before.

To properly evaluate the effectiveness of DHS’s investments in immigration enforcement, one needs an appropriate measure (or set of measures) of the total flow of unauthorized immigrants at and between the ports of entry.


1 See National Research Council (2011:Chapter 4) for a detailed description of how the immigration enforcement system operates.

2 The total of returns and removals in Figure 1-3 exceeds the total number of apprehensions in Figure 1-1. See National Research Council (2011:48-51) for a discussion of some of the limitations of published DHS apprehensions data.

3 In fiscal 2010, approximately 75 percent of unauthorized immigrants who were voluntarily returned were Mexican nationals, while 1 percent were from Central America. In that same year, approximately 73 percent of unauthorized immigrants who were formally removed were Mexican nationals, while about 20 percent were from Central America (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2011b).

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