WASHINGTON, October 5, 2011 (AFP) – The United States this year will deport a record number of undocumented aliens who are convicted criminals, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.
Last year the US government deported a record 390,000 undocumented aliens, including 195,000 with a criminal background, and were even higher in the next 12-month period.
â€œFor the first time in decades, 50 percent of the aliens removed by (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) had been convicted of a criminal offense,â€ Napolitano said in a speech at the American University in the US capital.
â€œIn 2011, ICE will again remove a record number of convicted criminals from our country,â€ she said.
The government of President Barack Obama has prioritized the deportation of foreign convicted criminals in an attempt to apply immigration laws in a more humane way while waiting for broad immigration reform, a divisive issue currently not on the agenda of the US Congress.
Among those â€œnon-criminalsâ€ who were deported in 2010, more than two-thirds â€œwere either recent border crossers or repeat violators,â€ she said.
Napolitano defended new measures approved by the Obama administration to focus on the deportation of people who represent a danger to the United States.
â€œIt makes sense to prioritize our finite resources on removing a Mexican citizen who is wanted for murder in his home country ahead of a Mexican national who is the sole provider for his American citizen spouse,â€ said Napolitano.
The measures â€œdo not constitute amnesty. They reflect the judicious and intelligent use of resources, common sense and prioritization.â€
She also defended a controversial program known as Secure Communities, which lets local police share fingerprint data of people who have been arrested with federal immigration agents to determine the suspectâ€™s immigration status.
Immigrant rights groups say that people who do not represent a danger for the country have been deported due to the program.
If the program were revoked, the country would go â€œback towards the ad hoc approach where non-criminal aliens are more likely to be removed than criminals,â€ she said.