SEATTLE — The number of immigrants residing in Washington, Oregon and Alaska deported from the United States dropped by more than 30 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year.
New figures released by U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement show that 4,525 people residing in the Pacific Northwest were removed from the country in fiscal year 2013. That's compared to 6,733 people in 2012 and nearly 11,000 people in 2008.
Included in the number of people removed from the Pacific Northwest are immigrants who are transferred to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma from outside the three states.
That's apparent to attorney Betsy Tao, who heads the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project office in Tacoma and is the only legal aid office to give guidance at the Northwest Detention Center.
She said the detention center continues to host people seeking asylum who arrive at the southern border. Large numbers of East Africans and women from Mexico and Central America are transferred to the detention center in Tacoma.
Nonetheless, the number of people her office has provided guidance are dropping. In 2013, her office helped 3,200 people, a drop of 800 from the year before.
During the Obama Administration, the number of removals has dropped by nearly 60 percent in the Pacific Northwest.
Nationally, more than 1.9 million immigrants have been removed since 2009. Officials say last year's total was 368,644 removed immigrants. That is the fewest number of immigrants deported by ICE since the end of President George W. Bush's administration.
While removal numbers have dropped, another issue nagging the immigration system is a high backlog of cases in immigration courts.
The Seattle and Tacoma courts had a backlog of more than 5,500 cases in 2013, according to data compiled by the Syracuse University-based research center Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. At the start of Obama's administration in 2009, that number was just over 3,600.