U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Friday evening that it hit a new deportation record during the 2012 fiscal year. It also issued new guidelines mandating that ICE go after only those who are serious criminal offenders, which could reduce the number of people deported next year.
Deportation numbers hit a new high
The agency reported that it removed 409,849 undocumented immigrants from the country during the 2012 fiscal year. That tops the 396,906 individuals the agency deported in the 2011 fiscal year and the more than 392,000 individuals it deported in the 2010 fiscal year.
Of those who were removed this year, about 55 percent – or 225,390 of the people deported – were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. Included in that list were 1,215 convicted of homicide; 5,557 convicted of sexual offenses; 40,448 convicted for crimes involving drugs; and 36,166 convicted for driving under the influence.
ICE also noted that 96 percent – a record high – of the deportations fell into a priority category.
“While the FY 2012 removals indicate that we continue to make progress in focusing resources on criminal and priority aliens, with more convicted criminals being removed from the country than ever before, we are constantly looking for ways to ensure that we are doing everything we can to utilize our resources in a way that maximizes public safety,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement.
Morton also noted that “in order to further enhance our ability to focus enforcement efforts on serious offenders, we are changing who ICE will issue detainers against.” Detainers are notices that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issues to law enforcement agencies asking them to hold on to individuals who ICE agents intend to take into custody.
ICE Director detailed the “new national detainer guidance” in a memorandum that went out Friday to ICE agents and officers. The new guidance mandates that individuals who are arrested by local authorities for minor misdemeanor offenses, including minor traffic violations, should not be picked up by ICE. It also said that ICE agents should only take into custody individuals who meet the agency’s enforcement priorities – this includes felons, those with three or more prior misdemeanor convictions and recent border crossers.
Morton’s new memorandum also included a list of characteristics that classify individuals as a top priority for ICE. The same list was included in another memorandum Morton sent out June 2010.
“Smart and effective immigration enforcement relies on setting priorities for removal and executing on those priorities,” stated Morton.
Also significant was ICE’s announcement Friday to discontinue its 287 (g) agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies. Under the 287 (g) program, ICE partners up with local law enforcement agencies to identify and detain undocumented immigrants.
More enforcement results in more deportations
Lydia Guzman, chairman of the League of United Latin American Citizens’s immigration committee, said the record deportations demonstrate that “more enforcement is coming out of this administration than any other we’ve ever seen.”
The Obama administration has received much criticism from Latino leaders, like Guzman, for a higher number of deportations of undocumented immigrants than any other administration. They also argue that an enforcement-only approach will not fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
Guzman noted that an immigration reform consists of three parts: border enforcement, interior enforcement and legalization for undocumented immigrants. She said the latest deportation numbers and the enforcement programs in place, such as Secure Communities, demonstrate the first two are already in place. She said the only thing missing now is a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
“We already have enough enforcement – the numbers show that – so when are we going to bring in that third piece of immigration reform that we were promised?” she said.