Who Is ICE Calling “Criminals”?

In 2011, the Obama Administration deported record numbers of immigrants, criminalizing entire communities to fulfill an annual quota of 400,000 deportations

MIAMI – On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported record numbers in deportations during the last fiscal year. A total of 396,906 immigrants were deported, the highest number since 2007 (link 2).

In response to growing outrage among the immigrant community, specially Latinos, about the increased and unfair deportation of immigrants who had not committed crimes, the agency highlights that “nearly 55% were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors”, allegedly prioritizing threats to public safety and national security.

However, according to ICE’s own report (Link 1), the numbers don’t add up. Only 22% of those deported had actual criminal convictions that might pose a threat to public safety. The rest of the 55%, include immigrants whose only “crime” was to re-enter the country to be reunited with their families or driving without a license in a state where it is considered a misdemeanor.

“ICE is calling criminals people who are active members of our society and who have deep roots in this country, farm workers, parents of US citizen children and students who would be eligible for the DREAM Act,” says María Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “Victims of a broken immigration system are not criminals. What does this have to do with national security?”

Furthermore, 45% of those deported had no previous criminal convictions, close to 180,000 immigrants. The Obama Administration accepts these numbers as the “collateral damage” of the highly controversial immigration program Secure Communities (S-Comm).

Two months have passed since the Administration announced a refocus in deportation priorities, and so far nothing has changed. There is still no clarity about how ‘prosecutorial discretion’ will be applied, especially when officers have to fulfill a quota of detentions and deportations. Also, ICE has yet to start reviewing the 300,000 cases that are currently facing deportation proceedings. In other words, it’s business as usual.

Meanwhile, the Administration is aggressively expanding immigration detention throughout the country. There are currently plans to build six new for-profit immigration detention centers, including a new facility in South Florida which could be one the largest in the country with capacity for up to 2,000 detainees. “This is not about national security or public safety, this isn’t about saving American jobs. This is about feeding the billionaire business of immigrant detention and for-profit prisons,” adds Rodriguez.

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