The United States deported the largest amount of people in the last year in the nation’s history, immigration officials say. John Morton, the director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says the agency deported nearly 400,000 individuals during the fiscal year 2011 that just ended in September.
ICE said about 55 percent of those deported had felony or misdemeanor convictions. More than 1 million undocumented immigrants have been deported since President Obama took office in January 2009.
Officials said the number of deported individuals who had been convicted of crimes was up 89 percent from 2008. But officials could not immediately say how many of those crimes were related to immigration violations.
Among those deported were more than 1,000 people convicted of homicide. Another 5,800 were sexual offenders, and about 80,000 people convicted of drug related crimes or driving under the influence.
Authorities say two-thirds of those deported either recently crossed the border or had done so repeatedly.
“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.
The Obama administration recently announced that it was suspending deportations while it reviewed each of the roughly 300,000 cases pending and put those involving criminals or people who posed another threat to the public ahead of the line. Those whom it deemed low-risk would be put on hold, or their cases would be closed, administration officials said.
“These priorities,” said the ICE website, “include the identification and removal of those that have broken criminal laws, threats to national security, recent border crossers, repeat violators of immigration law and immigration court fugitives.”
The administration’s announcement about the new deportation policy unleashed criticism by proponents of a tough approach to illegal immigration who said the new policy was a form of amnesty. They argue that everyone whose presence here is unlawful should be deported.
Advocates for more lenient immigration policies have assailed the Obama administration for failing to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, and instead expelling a record number of immigrants.
Many say his actions — which they say run counter to his 2008 campaign pledges to help people find a path to legalization — amount to betrayal.
The Obama administration says it is simply using limited resources in a more efficient way by directing them at the most dangerous immigrants in the country.
This is based on a story by The Associated Press.