The result has been growing concern among critics on the left and right that the Obama administration is playing politics – holding back data that might upset the Hispanic community, which is seen as crucial to the president's reelection prospects. Obama officials refute that assertion, but Kolken, for one, is skeptical.
"What I have seen coming out of TRAC, this administration is not being truthful with regards to the data they're releasing, or at least with regard to the public-relations spin they're putting on policies," says Kolken, who works in Buffalo, N.Y. "Every time they say something, TRAC looks at the cold, hard data, and it contradicts the press releases. It's a repeating pattern."
So far, the Obama administration has been bold and specific in its assertions. The Department of Homeland Security "has implemented immigration enforcement priorities that focus limited resources on convicted criminals, repeat immigration law violators, fugitives, and recent entrants," DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said in an e-mail.
As a result, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed a record 216,000 criminal illegal immigrants in fiscal year 2011 – "an 89 percent increase over 2008," Mr. Chandler added.
In May, President Obama told an audience in El Paso, Texas, that the focus was on "violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income."
The problem is that immigration court statistics obtained by TRAC show that actual criminal deportation proceedings have dropped below Bush administration levels. So how are deportations of criminal aliens up 89 percent over 2008?