The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official websites] announced on Tuesday that 396,906 illegal immigrants were deported in 2011 [press release], the largest number in the agencies' history. The report indicated that more than half of the deportees were convicted criminals. In August, the US drastically shifted immigration policy [JURIST report] by putting 300,000 illegal immigrants' cases up for review and temporarily halting their deportation. A new DHS guideline revealed that illegal immigrants would be targeted for deportation based on being a security risk or having committed criminal activity.
Despite being the province of the federal government, varying immigration laws have been proposed by several state legislatures, often resulting in lengthy court battles. Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] temporarily blocked portions of a controversial Alabama immigration law [JURIST report], which would require immigration status checks of public school students and make it a misdemeanor for an illegal resident not to have immigration papers. A coalition of civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit earlier that week in an attempt to block South Carolina's immigration law that allows police officers to check a suspect's immigration status [JURIST report] during a lawful stop, seizure, detention or arrest, and mandates that businesses participate in the federal E-Verify [official website] system to check the citizenship status of employees and job applicants. In August, the state of Arizona filed a petition for writ of certiorari [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court [official website] seeking to overturn a lower court decision enjoining four provisions of Arizona's controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive], on which the South Carolina and Alabama legislation is modeled. Several other state legislatures have also acted recently to implement so-called "Arizona style" immigration laws.