[JURIST] US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] Director John Morton [official profile] announced Wednesday that the US government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants [news release] during 2010. About half of the more than 390,000 illegal immigrants deported allegedly have criminal records. Napolitano explained the deportation figures:
This administration has focused on enforcing our immigration laws in a smart, effective manner that prioritizes public safety and national security and holds employers accountable who knowingly and repeatedly break the law. Our approach has yielded historic results, removing more convicted criminal aliens than ever before and issuing more financial sanctions on employers who knowingly and repeatedly violate immigration laws than during the entire previous administration.
According to ICE reports, there has been an 70 percent increase in criminal convict deportations since 2008. The increase may be attributed to the Secure Communities Initiative [ICE backgrounder], a $1.4 billion ICE effort to find and deport criminals who are residing illegally in the US.
Mounting emphasis on enforcement of existing immigration laws under the Obama administration has seen a sharp rise in deportations [JURIST report] by the ICE, with government resources funding deportations of convicted criminals and raids on corporations suspected of employing illegal immigrants. In July, a Syracuse University study indicated that backlogs at US immigration courts are up by more than 30 percent [JURIST report] in the previous 18 months. As of January 2009, there were an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the US, one million less than in 2007, according to the DHS. In that same period, deportations have more than doubled. Federal authorities have indicated that the workload would continue to grow since the implementation of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive], which criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual’s immigration status if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” to believe an individual is in the country illegally.