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October 18, 2011

Notable new data on the "crimmigration" front

The linkages between criminal justice law and policy and immigration law and policy has generated a new term, "crimmigration," and there are some notable blogs covering these intersecting issues (see here and here).  And this news report from USA Today, headlined "Most illegal immigrants deported last year were criminals," adds some interesting data to these discussions. Here are the basics:

The U.S. deported nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants last year, and an increasing number of them were convicted criminals, according to figures set for release Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security.

Deportations have been on the rise for the past decade, and the 396,906 illegal immigrants deported in fiscal year 2011 is the highest number yet, according to the figures.

Under the Obama administration, Homeland Security issued new priorities to focus deportations on convicted criminals, people who pose threats to national security and repeated border-crossers. Last year, 55% of those deported were convicted criminals, the highest percentage in nearly a decade.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said the numbers reflect the administration's "focus on sensible immigration."... Critics say the numbers illustrate that the administration is intent on finding ways for illegal immigrants to stay in the country.

Obama last year endorsed the DREAM Act, which would have granted legal status to some children of illegal immigrants, but it failed to pass Congress. And Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has questioned the reprioritizing of deportations, arguing that it amounts to a free pass for illegal immigrants who have not committed major crimes....

Others look at the numbers and wonder how they could be interpreted as leniency. "For billions of dollars to be spent so that 45% of the people we're deporting are not convicted criminals is not a good use of our enforcement dollars," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which supports a path for some of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants to become citizens.

Of the convicted criminals deported last year, 1,119 were convicted of homicide, 5,848 of sexual offenses, 44,653 of drug-related offenses and 35,927 of driving under the influence, according to the Homeland Security figures. The number of illegal immigrants deported has risen from 116,782 in 2000. The percentage of criminal deportations was at 31% when Obama assumed office.

October 18, 2011 at 11:56 AM | Permalink


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I'd be interested in data on how many of the convicted-of-crime deportees are being turned over by the prison authorities directly to the immigration authorities rather than having been found living out in the community but subject to deportation because of an old conviction. There's no reason not to have close to 100% efficiency in deporting (at the end of sentence) those incarcerated non-citizens who were already here unlawfully or whose conviction screws up (after appropriate administrative proceedings) their prior valid immigration status. How many unlawfully-present aliens who were living at large, holding down jobs, etc. are being located, detained, and deported is a somewhat unrelated metric of strictness of immigration enforcement (and priorities therein), and muddling the two together is potentially confusing. In other words, if you got to the point where 99% of the aliens you were deporting were convicted criminals, it doesn't mean you're prioritizing sensibly, it means you're too lazy to do anything but pick the lowest-hanging fruit and have decided on de facto non-enforcement for everyone else.

Posted by: JWB | Oct 18, 2011 2:06:43 PM

Good point from JWB.

I'd also be interested in how many of these deportees are classified as criminals based solely on a conviction for illegal reentry. That is definitely a crime, but I do think it would be relevant to know if some large percentage of these convicted criminals were not convicted of anything other than being illegal immigrants in the first place (albeit repeat illegal immigrants).

Posted by: Anon | Oct 21, 2011 3:22:36 PM


A DHS report on FY 2010 immigration enforcement actions provides some relevant data. According to the report, of the 168,532 "criminal aliens" removed that year, 18.7% were removed for having violated an "immigration" crime. This was the second highest category, behind "dangerous drugs" offenses (25.3%) and ahead of "criminal traffic offenses" (18.3%). You can find the report on my blog, crImmigration.com: http://crimmigration.com/2011/07/05/dhs-releases-2010-enforcement-stats.aspx.

We can expect to see immigration crime convictions continue to constitute a large percentage of who is removed on the basis of a criminal conviction given that illegal reentry is now the most commonly charged federal offense (http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/251/).


Posted by: César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández | Oct 22, 2011 2:23:16 PM

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