The U.S. has deported 400,000 illegal immigrants in the past year, the largest one-year total ever, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.
The Fiscal Year 2011 numbers are part of a trend of increasing deportation rates in recent years, as well as a trend toward a greater focus on deporting criminals. Of the 396,906 illegal immigrants deported this year, 55 percent had felony or misdemeanor convictions -- an 89 percent increase from 2008.
A Focus on Those Who 'Game the System'
In the face of limited resources, we have to prioritize, and that starts with criminal offenders, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said in a statement. We are making sure that people who game the system face the consequences.
Of the 396,906 total, 1,119 deportees had been convicted of homicide, 5,848 of sexual offenses, 44,653 of drug-related crimes and 35,987 of driving under the influence, the Department of Homeland Security reported. Two-thirds had either crossed the border recently or done so repeatedly.
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, Morton said.
Morton called the new policy a focus on sensible immigration, but Republicans said it amounted to little more than an attempt by President Obama to avoid enforcing immigration laws.
It's disappointing that the Obama administration continues to put illegal immigrants before the American people, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told USA Today. We could free up millions of jobs for citizens and legal immigrants if we simply enforced our immigration laws.
The number of deportations is up substantially from 116,782 in 2000, however. When Obama took office in January 2009, convicted criminals accounted for 31 percent of deportations.
Meanwhile, Obama is also facing criticism from the left for the high deportation totals, which critics call a violation of his campaign promise to make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain legal residency. Critics are also pointing to a new report showing that a third of the 226,000 immigrants deported under the Secure Communities program had spouses or children who were U.S. citizens.