WASHINGTON — Criminal deportations have reached a record high in U.S. history, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said last Wednesday.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) deported 392,862 people in fiscal year 2010. Criminal deportations jumped to 195,772 persons in 2010, while non-criminal cases dropped to 197,090. The numbers amount to a 70 percent increase since the Bush administration, Janet Napolitano of DHS said during a press briefing last Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, in immigration families do get separated, if and when Congress takes up immigration reform, that will be one of the issues that they undoubtedly have to consider,” Napolitano said.
Napolitano added that there will be no deportation relief for persons that do not have criminal histories. “We want to go after criminal aliens. We want to go after recent entries. We want to go after employers who are potentially hiring illegal labor and we are going after those who are really gaming the system.”
Napolitano attributed the deportation increases to the implementation of the Secure Communities program, which she said will extend to all law enforcement jurisdictions by 2013.
Secure Communities is a federal information gathering program that uses biometric identification, such as finger prints, to determine the immigration status of someone in custody.
During a later briefing with Hispanic media, John T. Morton, assistant secretary of ICE, added that the department expects an expansion of 900 jurisdictions for next year.
While police jurisdictions can’t opt out of the program, Morton said the Department invites investigations for specific complaints.
“We do prioritize our efforts based on level of offense. Over three quarters were convicted of level one or two offenses,” said Morton.
ICE classifies level one offenders as persons who have committed murder, rape and major drug crimes and level two as persons who have committed robbery or minor drug crimes. According to an ICE fact sheet, 28,000 undocumented persons have been convicted for driving under the influence.
Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, released a statement discrediting the release of DHS’s immigration data as a political strategy before the midterm election.
“Broken immigration laws should not be multiplied. In an effort to score political points, Obama Administration immigration enforcement initiatives have imperiled community safety, separated families, eroded hard-earned civil rights protections, and created a domestic human rights crisis. This administration cannot continue to have it both ways: it can not simply blame Congress for inaction while ramping up enforcement of unjust status quo laws. It is a travesty that Secretary Napolitano continues to use her home state of Arizona as a blueprint for DHS policy.”
Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Office for Intergovernmental Affairs, reiterated the administration’s goal for comprehensive immigration reform.
“It has been top priority in this administration and the only reason we haven’t got it done is because we’ve had no Republican cooperation,” Munoz said, while stressing that the administration will continue to support a bi-partisan proposal after the midterm elections.
Raisa Camargo is a reporter with the Hispanic Link Service.
Image: Center for American Progress @ Flickr.