Today USA Today reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made plans to increase the deportations of immigrants who have committed minor offenses to meet performance goals. According to the report:
“U.S. immigration officials laid out plans last year that would ratchet up expulsions of immigrants convicted of minor crimes as part of an urgent push to make sure the government would not fall short of its criminal deportation targets, new records obtained by USA TODAY show.
Among those new tactics — detailed in interviews and internal e-mails — were trolling state driver’s license records for information about foreign-born applicants, dispatching U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to traffic safety checkpoints conducted by police departments, and processing more illegal immigrants who had been booked into jails for low-level offenses. Records show ICE officials in Washington approved some of those steps.”
The report goes on to say that the effort to ramp up removals came after senior ICE officials had warned regional employees that criminal deportation numbers had fallen from the previous year and that the agency wanted to get those removal numbers back up.
In 2012, the Obama administration announced that it exceeded the deportation record it has set the previous year when it removed 409,849 immigrants. In the 2011 fiscal year, the administration had removed 396,906 immigrants. Many of these people had only been charged with low level crimes such as traffic offenses. Additionally, many of these removals have included the parents of U.S. born children, creating a foster care crisis on some communities.
Chris Newman, the legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, responded to today’s report in USA Today saying, “The Obama administration’s decision to recruit local police as ‘force multipliers’ in immigration enforcement was was fully about meeting deportations and not at all about public safety. Setting immigration policy by a deportation quota runs counter to every talking point the Obama administration has used in the past five years. It has endangered public safety. It has offends both constitutional values and it has led to grave civil rights.”
Newman also explained how despite the administration’s publicly stated goal of prioritizing removals to focus on those who have been convicted of serious crimes, it has produced the opposite in its removal numbers, “While the President touts that enforcement has become prioritized, the data reveals that John Morton has driven it in the opposite direction. Instead of sharpening its focus, John Morton pushed agents to widen their dragnets to catch anyone who could help meet quota. It’s the exact reason why the first step in immigration reform must be a suspension of deportations.”