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U.S. deported 369,000, many without criminal convictions

Anthony Advincula | 1/17/2014, 6 a.m.

The U.S. government deported about 369,000 immigrants during fiscal year 2013, according to new statistics from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement released last month, showing a 10 percent drop from the previous year — the first since President Barack Obama took office in 2008.

Nearly 60 percent (216,810) of the total deported immigrants, the year-end report showed, had been previously convicted of a crime.

Of this number, ICE apprehended and deported 110,115 individuals with a crime conviction from within the country and another 106,695 at the border while attempting to unlawfully enter or re-enter the United States.

ICE officials described these figures as “meeting one or more immigration enforcement priorities” that the Obama administration announced two years ago, stating that his administration would no longer devote federal resources to deporting immigrants with “low priority cases,” including those without a criminal record and not a threat to national security.

“The 2013 numbers make clear that we are enforcing our nation’s laws in a smart and effective way, meeting our enforcement priorities by focusing on convicted criminals while also continuing to secure our nation’s borders,” John Sandweg, ICE acting director, said in a news release.

But the new removal figures provoked Filipino-American groups and other advocates for immigrant rights, saying that the numbers are misleading and that they don’t add up on Obama’s promise to stop unnecessary deportations, while Congress remains deadlocked on comprehensive immigration reform that will give millions of undocumented immigrants a path to legalization.

While it is true that the Obama administration deported criminals, advocates say, the report also revealed that it ousted 151,834 individuals without a criminal conviction.

Most of these immigrants only had immigration violations such as overstaying their visas, which is considered to be a civil offense, and those who are ignoring deportation orders.

“The government would claim that they have achieved its enforcement goal, and that they only look for criminals. That’s all rhetoric,” said Emelyn Tapaoan, a Filipino-American adjunct professor who teaches race and ethnic studies at City University of New York’s Manhattan College. “If you’re undocumented, even with no criminal record, you have no immunity to deportation. That’s the truth.”

Pablo Alvarado, executive director of National Day Laborer Organizing Network, also looked at the deportation numbers with skepticism.

“It’s easy for the [Obama] administration to say that those deported fit their priorities when the White House has practically made sneezing a criminal act for immigrants,” Alvarado said. “These numbers may represent political calculus for the beltway but, for immigrant families, they represent our parents, siblings and loved ones.”

To date, the total number of deportations has reached to more than 1.9 million since President Obama was first elected in 2008, the highest record by far for any U.S president.

Top 10 countries of removal

With 241,493 Mexicans deported from the United States in 2013, Mexico continued to be the leading country of origin for those who were removed, followed by other Latin American countries such as Guatemala (47,769), Honduras (37,049), El Salvador (21,602) and the Dominican Republic (2,462).