DHS deports record number of people in 2012

by Melanie Davis
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By New America Media Washington, D.C. — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton announced Dec. 21 that the agency had deported 409,849 individuals in 2012. ICE has also decided not to renew any of its agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies that operate task forces under the 287(g) program. ICE has concluded that other enforcement programs, including Secure Communities, are a more efficient use of resources for focusing on priority cases. Of the 409,849 individuals removed last year, approximately 55 percent were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. This includes 1,215 people convicted of homicide; 5,557 people convicted of sexual offenses; 40,448 people convicted for crimes involving drugs; and 36,166 people convicted for driving under the influence. ICE also issued new national detainer guidelines that restrict the use of detainers against individuals arrested for minor misdemeanor offenses such as traffic offenses. The guidelines, which are meant to underscore the administration's focus on removing convicted criminals from the country, are applicable to all ICE enforcement programs, including Secure Communities.
"Hiding in the fine print of the announcement," said Reshma Shamasunder, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, "are significant loopholes that mean that in practice, the [Secure Communities] program will continue to undermine community confidence in law enforcement and will continue to result in unjust detentions of aspiring citizens (or citizens, for that matter)." For example, she said, "The guidelines do not reflect our cherished value of due process — of the right to a day in court — and rely on a pre-conviction model that will still trap survivors of domestic violence and other crime victims and witnesses in deportations. The guidelines also continue to confuse criminal matters with immigration violations, meaning many people who aspire to become citizens but have previously been hurt by dysfunctional immigration policies will continue to be held for deportation." Shamasunder called for swift passage of the TRUST Act, the California bill introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano that would limit ICE hold requests. Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, called the deportation number "a dubious accomplishment." “Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security surpassed its own record-high bar for deportations in the last fiscal year," Noorani said. "Instead of spending our limited resources on deportations, we need laws that strengthen our families, our communities and our economy. Leaders from across the political spectrum are urging Congress to take action, and these numbers highlight the desperate need for change.â€