Blog Archive

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Illegal immigration down, deportations up since 2007, ICE reports

Naples News
Saturday, April 23, 2011

NAPLES — The illegal immigrant population in the United States has dipped since 2007 while the number of deportations has increased — though most of those deported aren’t classified as criminals.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has said its focus remains on removing violent criminals and those who are a threat to national security. But about half of those forced to leave the United States are classified as low-priority, nonviolent offenders.

“While ICE prioritizes the removal of convicted criminal aliens, ICE still enforces the law with regard to other aliens the agency encounters who are subject to removal,” said Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman.

A two-decade rise in undocumented immigration peaked in 2007, with an estimated 12 million people in the country illegally or overstaying a legal entry. That compares with 3.5 million in 1990.

The nation saw the trend reverse in 2008 and 2009, dropping to just over 11 million here illegally, where it stayed in 2010, based on a February report, according to the Pew Research Center.

The research didn’t indicate a cause for the decline.

During the same period, deportations increased by 35 percent with about 393,000 immigrants sent away from the United States in 2010 compared with 291,000 in 2007, according to a report from ICE.

ICE has a budget to remove about 400,000 people each year, ICE Director John Morton wrote in a June 2010 memo.

About 64 percent, or 894,000, of the 1.4 million people deported between fiscal 2007 and 2010 weren’t classified as criminals.

ICE defines noncriminal aliens as those with no recorded conviction but who have an immigration violation, such as staying in the United States after an entry visa expires.

Of the 195,000 listed as criminal aliens deported in fiscal 2010, about a quarter, or about 46,000, were the lowest-priority immigrants, those who were convicted of nonviolent crimes.

“ICE’s priorities consist not only of criminals,” Bennett said, “but also other threats, such as those with known gang affiliations, drunken driving arrests and those who are fugitives or frequently trying to game the immigration system.”

While the federal immigration debate has been stirred off and on, there is no powerful movement in Congress to address immigration right now, Naples immigration attorney Casey Wolff said.

There are about a dozen bills that focus on enforcement as well as some that could allow for some undocumented aliens to gain legal status.

But for now, politics is driving the machine with both parties analyzing the Hispanic vote and how to get it, Wolff said.

“The fear of God is in the 2012 election because that’s your swing vote,” Wolff said.