Using preliminary numbers, the Associated Press reports that deportations are down to the lowest level in nearly a decade. As you can see from the graphic, deportations (or, strictly speaking, removals attributed to ICE rather than to the Border Patrol) grew significantly under Bush (as they had under Clinton), initially plateaued under Obama, and are now collapsing.
Though the partial FY 2015 number reported by the AP is new, this has been building for a couple of years; deportations have fallen 42 percent since 2012. My colleague Jessica Vaughan reported on this last year.
The operational reason for the collapse in deportations is the Obama administration's enforcement-suppression policies, which it has labeled "prosecutorial discretion." The White House has claimed that, given limited resources, it's focusing only on the worst of the worst among criminal aliens. But then why have even criminal deportations been declining? They can't blame this on sanctuary cities, because as bad as they are, the number of criminals they're shielding from deportation isn't big enough to account for such a steep decline in numbers.
The AP reporter was engaging in gratuitous spin on behalf of the administration when she wrote, in her own voice, that: "The decline suggests the administration has been failing to find criminal immigrants in the U.S. interior, or that fewer immigrants living in the U.S. illegally had criminal records serious enough to justify deporting them." As they say on Twitter, HAHAHAHAHAHA! The administration hasn't been "failing to find criminal immigrants," nor have non-citizens suddenly become more law-abiding. Instead, the White House has essentially prohibited immigration agents from doing their jobs, which is a big part of why DHS employee morale is so low.
The administration's own spin is that more of the illegals arrested at the border are non-Mexican, and it takes longer to deport them. Except that it's letting them all go and deporting almost none of them.
In short, the drop in deportations is a policy choice made by the White House, not some development out of its control.
Perhaps the more important question, though, is why is Obama pulling the plug enforcement now rather than when he first took office? It's true that during the first several years of his administration, deportation statistics were artificially inflated by counting many people caught at the border as deportations, which they were not previously. But why end the charade of "record deportations" now?
The reason is "comprehensive immigration reform." It was necessary to appear credible on enforcement when passing an amnesty/immigration-surge bill was still a real prospect. The political message at the time was that Obama could be trusted to enforce immigration laws after an amnesty, to prevent the growth of a new illegal population, because he was deporting such large numbers of illegal aliens. Sure, it was never plausible to me, but the hope was that it would deceive enough voters who pay little attention to politics to provide pro-amnesty Republican sufficient political cover.
But when, despite this fairy tale, Senator Rubio's amnesty bill died in the House, with no prospect of revival, there was no need to continue the charade. Obama and his people could take off the disguise ("not much of a disguise," to quote Agent L in Men in Black) and follow their anti-borders instincts. We see this not only in the deportation collapse but also in Obama's lawless amnesty edicts and his many machinations to negate the various numerical limits and standards imposed by Congress (the most recent one is discussed here).
These latest deportation numbers vindicate House Republicans' refusal to vote on Rubio's amnesty bill. It's now indisputable that this administration had no intention of enforcing immigration law tomorrow if it was given an amnesty today. Obama's promises of future enforcement, never very credible, are now exposed as lies. Why did Rubio and the other 13 Republicans who voted for the Gang of Eight bill believe him?