By Jordy Yager - 10/18/11 02:31 PM ET
The U.S. deported more people — nearly 400,000 — who were in the country illegally in fiscal 2011 than ever before, according to the latest numbers released Tuesday by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureau.Of the 396,906 people removed from the U.S., more than half of them — 216,698 —had been previously convicted of felony or misdemeanor crimes, according to the ICE numbers, which boast a 90 percent increase in the number of criminals deported over those in fiscal 2008.
ICE Director John Morton attributed this jump to the agency’s newly revamped discretionary policy that allows agents to focus their resources on removing illegal immigrants they deem to be a more imposing threat to society over those who are in the country illegally but are not violating other laws."
Smart and effective immigration enforcement relies on setting priorities for removal and executing on those priorities," Morton said in a statement.“
These year-end totals indicate that we are making progress, with more convicted criminals, recent border crossers, egregious immigration law violators and immigration fugitives being removed from the country than ever before,” he said.
Republicans have criticized the White House’s new enforcement policies, which allow immigration officers to place an emphasis on arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes over those who are in the country illegally but have not been arrested for other crimes. Republicans say this is a backdoor path to citizenship.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, said earlier this month that the rising number of deportations show her agency is doing its job to enforce the law.“
We cannot, on the one hand, be on the verge of removing, for the third consecutive year, a record-breaking number of unlawful individuals from this country with the highest number of criminal removals in American history and, at the same time, be abrogating our law enforcement responsibilities,” Napolitano said during a talk at American University.
ICE said that of the criminals deported, 1,119 had been convicted of committing a homicide, 5,848 had been convicted of sexual offenses, and 44,653 aliens had been convicted of drug related crimes.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) strongly objected to ICE’s announcement, saying that the White House’s policies have torn apart families and are symptomatic of an “uncontrolled” Department of Homeland Security (DHS).“
All told, this administration has deported nearly 1.2 million people, leaving a wake of devastation in Latino communities across the nation,” said Joanne Lin, ACLU’s legislative counsel.
“These record-breaking deportation numbers come at a time when illegal immigration rates have plummeted, the undocumented population has decreased substantially and violent crime rates are at their lowest levels in 40 years. Our country can no longer afford to pay for uncontrolled, unwarranted DHS spending at the cost to U.S. taxpayers,” Lin said.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Tuesday that he planned to ask Napolitano about the new ICE policies during Wednesday’s hearing.
“The Obama policies may be an impermissible intrusion on Congress’s plenary authority over immigration law,” said Grassley, speaking at Judicial Watch. “They’re pushing the envelope for sure and there’s little transparency in their actions.”