5 Jun 2019

More NZers deported from US, fewer getting citizenship

11:13 am on 5 June 2019

The number of New Zealanders deported from America has jumped by 75 percent, according to the latest figures from Homeland Security.

A New Zealand passport with silver fern on a red background (file photo)

Photo: 123RF

The increase came in the first year of Donald Trump's presidency, when he told immigration authorities there they should reprioritise overstayers instead of concentrating on criminals.

A total of 170 New Zealanders were sent back from the United States in 2017, compared to 97 the year before.

In the same year, 468 New Zealanders acquired American citizenship, compared to 565 the year before.

Almost a quarter of the naturalised Americans lived in California.

United States President Donald Trump.

US President Donald Trump Photo: AFP

Assistant professor in global affairs and human security at Baltimore University Jennica Larrison said the deportation numbers overall were no higher than they were under former US president Barack Obama.

What had changed was priorities for compliance action, she said.

"Now it's open season," she said.

"As of 2014, there was an executive order by President Obama to make it clear that it was indeed criminals that we had a priority to deport and to basically leave everyone else alone as long as they were doing what they were supposed to be doing.

"The first month of President Trump's presidency, he signed an executive order that basically determined that was not the case, that you could then look for anyone.

"And it was okay now again to not have those priorities, that there was no priority on who we were deporting - we should be deporting everyone who's not here legally."

There was also a change in tone, and language about immigration had filtered down to the agencies in charge of addressing deportation and how they interpreted the limits of how they could do their job, she said.

The figures also show that although many nationalities recorded higher deportation rates, more populous countries such as China and the Philippines saw thousands fewer removed and overall there was a fall in deportations.

The misconception that numbers of deportations had increased was fuelled by high-profile and sometimes militaristic apprehensions of overstayers in places such as churches and schools, Ms Larrison said.

A deliberate slowing down of visa processing accounted for the drop in immigrants becoming citizens, she added.

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