Monday, August 2, 2010
Deportation Data Reflect Shift; Record Number of Criminal Aliens Are Removed Under New Administration Plan
By MIRIAM JORDAN
The Associated Press
A record number of criminal aliens have been deported so far this year, reflecting a shift in emphasis by the Obama administration, according to an independent analysis released Monday.
In the first nine months of fiscal year 2010, 137,000 illegal immigrants designated as criminal aliens were deported, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, 60% more than in a comparable period of the Bush administration's last year and about one-third more than in a comparable period in the Obama administration's first year.
The numbers reflect ICE's implementation of a policy that targets illegal immigrants the government describes as criminal aliens who have been convicted of offenses since coming to the U.S. ranging from murder and sexual assault to property damage and traffic violations, according to a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan research center affiliated with Syracuse University.
TRAC, however, found that 17% of those classified as criminal aliens by ICE had committed serious crimes by the agency's own definition, including homicide and sexual assault.
About 11 million illegal immigrants reside in the U.S., according to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE.
During the first nine months of the 2010 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 279,000 noncitizens were removed from the U.S., according to ICE. That's a 10% increase from the same period in the last fiscal year of the Bush administration and almost twice as many removals as in the period in 2005, according to the TRAC report.
Earlier this year, ICE chief John Morton announced the agency's enforcement strategy would shift toward prioritizing the apprehension of illegal immigrants who had committed crimes rather than others unlawfully in the country. "The stated immigration policy is actually being followed," said David Burnham, co-director of TRAC.
A surge in deportations between fiscal years 2005 and 2009 was accomplished largely by "catching noncitizens who had not committed any crimes" other than sneaking across the border or entering the U.S. legally and overstaying their visas, the TRAC report said.
Despite the new emphasis, fewer than half of those removed, or 49%, were criminal aliens, compared with 51% who were not.
Matt Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the administration had "fundamentally reformed immigration enforcement using our resources to focus on identifying and removing criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety."
Critics said the administration's numbers were misleading.
"It is a misrepresentation to say that these are criminal aliens," said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, an immigrant-advocacy group in Los Angeles. "Many are just regular workers driving with broken tail lights or stopped and don't have a license," Ms. Salas said.