The Obama administration announced on Wednesday that in the past year it has deported a record number of unauthorised immigrants — more than 392,000, half of whom were convicted criminals.
Officials said removals during the fiscal year that ended September 30 included 1,000 murderers, nearly 6,000 sex-offenders, 45,000 drug-offenders and 28,000 drunk drivers. The number surpassed the 2009 total of 387,790, the previous record.
The percentage targeting criminals rose sharply in keeping with a new emphasis at the Department of Homeland Security to use immigration enforcement as a crime-fighting tool.
“It has been another record-breaking year at ICE — one that has seen ICE enforce the law at record levels, and in sensible, firm and thoughtful ways,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Officials said they had also stepped up audits of employers suspected of using these immigrants as workers.
The announcement comes less than a month before November’s midterm polls, in which Democrats are fighting to retain control of Congress. Obama administration officials say the actions against employers and number of deportations are higher than during the Bush administration.
The new enforcement measures appear to be correlated with declines in illegal border crossings but also with record numbers of deaths among migrants entering by crossing Arizona desert. Over 250 deaths have been recorded in the past year.
Napolitano credited programs 287G and Secure Communities for the rise in deportations.
Immigration rights activists say that the program has lent itself to racial profiling.
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