When it comes to deportation, Arizona seems to be bucking the overall national trend.
While the number of illegal immigrants deported continues to increase, for the second year in a row fewer people were deported from Arizona.
Deportations have jumped under the Obama administration to more than a 1.5 million people removed from the country in the last four fiscal years - nearly 410,000 of them in 2012. The fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
From the peak of 2010 when 92,592 people were deported from Arizona, the number of removals declined to under 40,000 in 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data show. This includes people people ordered deported by a judge and those who voluntarily left the country after being in ICE custody. The figure does not include the number of people who are caught and released at the border by the Border Patrol - those figures have yet to be released.
"The main reason is that the undocumented population has fallen markedly in Arizona while it has increased slightly in Texas, according to estimates from Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics," Douglas Massey, a Princeton University sociologist who has studied international migration, wrote in an email.
Arizona's numbers correlate with the decrease in the number of Border Patrol apprehensions in the state, ICE officials say. In the last decade, the number of people the Border Patrol in Arizona apprehended declined from 528,000 in 2001 to 129,000 in 2011. Year totals for 2012 haven't been released.
The Border Patrol is Southern Arizona's largest law-enforcement agency with 4,300 agents in the Tucson Sector, which monitors all of Arizona's border except for Yuma.
Border apprehensions are often used as a measure of illegal crossings, which have been plummeting.
Nationwide, the number of unauthorized immigrants has remained flat at about 11 million since 2009, according to estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center, after reaching a high of 12 million in 2007.
From 2008 to 2011, Arizona's unauthorized population fell from 560,000 to 360,000, while in Texas the population rose from 1.7 million to 1.8 million, Massey said.
"Deportation fell in Arizona because there were 200,000 fewer people around to deport," he said.
In fiscal year 2012, the field office in San Antonio, responsible for Central and South Texas, led the country in the number of deportations with nearly 94,000 - a 48 percent increase from fiscal year 2011. About 40 percent were classified as criminals.
Phoenix ranked fourth after the El Paso and San Diego field offices. Fifty-two percent of those deported in Arizona were convicted criminals.
Criminal illegal immigrants are defined by ICE as people who have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime. Noncriminal illegal immigrants are people deported for immigration violations only.
Longtime Tucson civil-rights activist Isabel Garcia said she is not surprised by the deportation figures. "At one point, Arizona had massive numbers of deportation because Arizona was the state everyone was coming through; we had 1,000 to 2,000 people crossing per day at the height of it," she said. "Now that migration has decreased so dramatically in Arizona, of course we are going to see less deportation."
But even if the state numbers decrease, it doesn't mean it's news she welcomes.
"To me, those numbers reflect all the tragedy and all the suffering," Garcia said.
Mexico continues to be the top country of origin of those deported nationally with nearly 290,000 people in fiscal year 2012. It is followed by:
• Guatemala: 40,498
• Honduras: 32,464
• El Salvador: 19,694
• Dominican Republic: 3,262.
The Obama administration has been criticized by both sides of the immigration debate for the record deportation numbers.
Immigrant rights groups contend the government is separating families and targeting people who are not a danger to society. Those who favor tougher immigration enforcement call the deportation numbers inflated because they include people who voluntarily leave.
ICE Director John Morton also announced recently new guidelines that limit the use of immigration holds against people arrested for minor misdemeanors such as traffic offenses and other petty crimes to make sure that resources are focused on detaining felons, repeat offenders and other ICE priorities, according to a news release.
And ICE will not renew any of its agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies that operate task forces under the 287(g) program.
The 287(g) program trained local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration law. The agency concluded that other enforcement programs, including Secure Communities, are a more efficient use of resources for focusing on priority cases, according to the release.
Homeland Security last year revoked task-force agreements it had under the 287(g) program with seven Arizona law enforcement agencies, including the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Pima County Sheriff's Department and the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.
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"At one point, Arizona had massive numbers of deportation because Arizona was the state everyone was coming through; we had 1,000 to 2,000 people crossing per day at the height of it. Now that migration has decreased so dramatically in Arizona, of course we are going to see less deportation."
Isabel Garcia, longtime Tucson civil-rights activist
Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4213. On Twitter: @Perla_Trevizo .