Between cajoling, threats and actual punishments, Homeland Security has managed to drastically cut the number of countries that habitually refuse to take back immigrants whom the U.S. is trying to deport, officials said Tuesday, notching an early immigration success for President Trump.
The number of recalcitrant countries has dropped from 20 to 12 over the months since the presidential election, and some longtime offenders — including Iraq and Somalia — have earned their way off the naughty list. The list of countries is the shortest this decade.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials couldn’t immediately say how many people have been deported because of the changes, but Somalia has taken back 259 just seven months into the fiscal year. That is far more than the 198 it took back in all of 2016 and the 17 it took in 2015.
Marlen Pineiro, assistant director for removal operations at ICE, said the efforts began under the Obama administration but that Mr. Trump has created a determined focus at the Homeland Security and State departments, which are both involved in speeding up deportations.
“The wind being at our wings is really driving us forward,” she said.