US deportations of Marshall Islanders jump in 2018

11:30 am on 28 December 2018

By Giff Johnson.

The number of Marshall Islanders deported from the United States in fiscal year 2018 jumped compared to the previous year and tied the all-time deportation record set in FY2016.

An aerial view looking south down the Marshall Islands atoll of Ebeye.

An aerial view looking south down the Marshall Islands atoll of Ebeye. Photo: Anjojo Kabua

A total of 35 Marshall Islanders were deported in FY2018, according to the annual report issued by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this week.

This represents a 60 percent increase over the 22 Marshall Islands citizens removed from the US by ICE in FY2017.

FY2016 also had 35 deportations of Marshall Islands citizens living in the US - at the time the highest number ever for one year.

The ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report for FY2018 shows deportations of people from the US have steadily increased during the Trump Administration.

In FY2018, deportations of citizens from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) were the highest of among the three freely associated states but the number declined compared to 2017.

The ICE report said that 99 FSM citizens were deported this past fiscal year, compared to 110 the previous year.

Of the three freely associated states, Palau had the fewest deportees at nine, which was also a decline from its FY2017 total of 15.

The number of deportees from the three freely associated states and other Pacific islands is a tiny fraction of the overall number removed by US law enforcement.

A total of 256,085 were deported from the US in FY2018 compared to 226,119 in FY2017.

The nation with the most deportees was Mexico, with 141,045 of the total 256,085 people deported in FY2018.

Within the overall number of deportations, ICE "administrative arrests" went from 110,104 in FY2016 to 158,581 in FY2018.

An administrative arrest is the arrest of an alien for a civil violation of US immigration laws, which is subsequently adjudicated by an immigration judge or through other administrative processes.

"With 158,581 administrative arrests in FY2018, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) recorded the greatest number of administrative arrests as compared to the two previous fiscal years, and the highest number since FY2014," the report said.

What is significant about the administrative arrests is that while arrests of convicted criminals stayed virtually the same from 2017 to 2018, the number of arrests of aliens with pending criminal charges or other immigration violations increased significantly.

In 2018, 32,977 aliens with pending criminal charges were arrested, a nearly 50 percent jump from the 22,256 arrested in 2017.

Meanwhile, those arrested for other immigration violations went up to 20,464 from 15,478.

What this indicates is that the arrest process by ICE is triggered with pending criminal charges, putting those involved in criminal court proceedings into the immigration removal process.

Up to 2006, fewer than 10 Marshallese were deported annually from the US. From 2007, the numbers began to escalate.

Citizens of the freely associated states have visa-free access to the United States but those who are deported from the US are banned from returning.

Border management operations in the US using fingerprints and photos enforce that prohibition on deportees returning to the United States.