From Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
In FY2013, ICE conducted a total of 368,644 removals, 235,093 of whom were apprehended while, or shortly after, attempting to illegally enter the United States, and 133,551 of whom were apprehended in the interior of the United States. Nearly 60 percent of ICE’s total removals had been previously convicted of a criminal offense, and that number rises to 82 percent for individuals removed from the interior of the U.S. Other than convicted criminals, the agency’s enforcement priorities include: those apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States, illegal re-entrants – individuals who returned to the U.S. after being previously removed by ICE – and immigration fugitives.
ICE had a rosy take on the numbers:
The FY2013 numbers make clear that we are enforcing our nation’s laws in a smart and effective way, meeting our enforcement priorities by focusing on convicted criminals while also continuing to secure our nation’s borders in partnership with CBP,” said Acting Director Sandweg. “Ninety eight percent of those removed in the last year met one of our key priorities – a record high and a testament to the men and women of ICE who are helping to implement a strong and focused immigration enforcement strategy.
Other organizations weren't buying it. Frank Sharry for America's Voice had strong words in reaction to the new figures:
It’s sickening that the Obama Administration is deporting more immigrants than any other Administration in history, especially when the vast majority of those being deported qualify for legal status and a chance to earn citizenship under legislation the Obama Administration supports. What the President and new DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson should do is stop deporting people who are eligible for immigration status under pending legislation and tell ICE to stop ripping hard working immigrants away from their families and jobs. At a time of year when families should be celebrating together, it’s heartbreaking that our government is setting records for separating families.
There is a huge gap between what they say and what they do. DHS announced prosecutorial discretion policies in 2011 aimed at focusing deportation on the ‘worst of the worst,’ and yet these policies have never been fully implemented. They claim that most of those being deported are ‘convicted criminals’ – a scary label until you realize that their own definitions of ‘convicted criminals’ include traffic violations and minor nuisance offenses (see here and here). They claim that the only answer is legislation – which really is the best and most permanent solution – but refuse to simultaneously use their substantial administrative authority to rein in the out-of-control detention and deportation machinery. The time is now for the Administration to do its part to stop deporting people who are anything but ‘criminals’ and have deep roots and make huge contributions to the country they now call home.
And Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum had this take:
It’s clear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is working to focus its resources on deporting criminals. We are encouraged that a higher proportion of deportees had criminal convictions.
But ICE is still removing people with no criminal record who are just trying to build a life in America — including tens of thousands this past year. These numbers highlight the urgency for broad immigration reform from Congress that stresses accountability and moves our country forward. In 2014, leaders simply must follow through on a new immigration process that emphasizes security, freedom, opportunity and human dignity.
And Ruthie Epstein of the ACLU reminds us that a dubious milestone is about to be hit:
Despite broad consensus that the nation needs immigration reform, the Obama administration is barreling towards the dubious honor of hitting a record 2 million deportations by early next year. Today’s numbers show that ICE continues to sweep tens of thousands of immigrants into a detention and deportation machine that lacks basic due process protections, including the dignity of an appearance before a judge. The Department of Homeland Security should sharpen its enforcement priorities and strengthen due process protections for immigrants in removal proceedings.