- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2010
President Obama’s new immigration enforcement strategy led to an all-time record number of criminal aliens being deported last year, but removals of other illegal immigrants fell to the lowest rate since 2007, before the Bush administration began its crackdown.

Overall, deportations totaled about 392,000, or a less than 1 percent increase over 2009, leaving U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement short of of the goal it set for itself of 400,000 deportations.

Still, the administration said its new focus on immigrants with criminal records is paying off, with about half of those deported in 2010 being convicted criminals. In 2009, when about 390,000 immigrants were deported, only about a third of them had criminal records.

“This administration takes very very seriously the responsibility to secure the borders and enforce immigration laws,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in announcing the numbers Wednesday. The fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

Miss Napolitano said the jump in deportations of criminal aliens reflects their decision to focus on immigrants who pose the biggest threat to public safety. She also said, though, that the country won’t be as safe as it can be until Congress overhauls the immigration system and creates a way for illegal immigrants to get put on a path to citizenship.

Rep. Lamar Smith, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said in its efforts to boost criminal immigrants’ deportations, the department has fallen down on other basic enforcement.

He said administrative arrests of illegal immigrant workers are down 77 percent under Mr. Obama, criminal arrests are down 60 percent and convictions are down 68 percent.

“Worksite enforcement has been all but forgotten by the Obama administration,” Mr. Smith, a Texas Republican, said. “Millions of Americans are struggling to find work, while an estimated seven million illegal immigrants are working in the U.S. Worksite enforcement could help make those much-needed jobs available for U.S. citizen and legal immigrant workers.”

Mr. Obama has come under pressure from immigrant-rights groups who want him to halt all deportations, and from Republicans in Congress who want him to step up enforcement.

He has rejected calls to stop deportations, and instead tried to stake out a middle ground, increasing deportations of immigrants with criminal records, but reducing deportations of other illegal immigrants.

ICE Director John Morton called the new approach “sensible, firm and thoughtful.”

But ICE agents earlier this year gave a vote of “no confidence” for Mr. Morton and Assistant Director Phyllis Cover, blasting “their misguided and reckless initiatives.”

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