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Deportations Hit a Record High

Deportations Hit a Record High

(According to New York Times article by Julia Preston published Oct. 6, 2010)

Immigration authorities deported a record 392,862 immigrants over the last year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. About half of those deported- 195,775- were convicted criminals, also a record, and an increase of more than 81,000 deportations of criminals compared to the final year of George W. Bush’s presidency. She also said the deportation figures, especially the criminals figures, reflected the Obama administration’s shift to focusing more closely on ‘removing those who pose public safety threats to our communities.’

Officials say the surge in deportations of criminals came in part as a result of the “Secure Communities” program which allows local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of every person, including American citizens, booked into a county or local jail. The identity check is based on comparing fingerprints of people arrested against prints in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. According to DHS figures, about one-third of the criminals who were deported had committed the most serious crimes, including murder, rape and major drug offenses.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also conducted more than 2,200 audits of hiring documents at businesses to check for unauthorized immigrant workers, bringing criminal charges against 180 employers and levying more than $50 million in fines.

Officials said that many of the nearly 200,000 immigrants deported who had committed no crimes were fugitives from immigration courts or had recently crossed the border illegally. This portrayal has been questioned by immigration lawyers like David Leopold, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, who recognizes the possibility of “being caught in the web of a very dysfunctional system.” He is cognizant that, despite repeated pledges, President Obama has made no progress on persuading Congress to take up an overhaul that would provide channels for illegal immigrants to gain legal status.

Researchers who study federal statistics said they could not dig into the immigration figures to learn more about the deportees who were not criminals, because immigration authorities had, for the first time, blocked them from receiving detailed data. “It is unprecedented what they are doing withholding data,” said Susan B. Long, a co-director of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a group that studies federal data.

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