After a steep drop in deportations, U.S. immigration authorities have set controversial new quotas for agents, reports the Washington Post. Officials have stepped back from an Obama administration commitment to focus enforcement efforts primarily on illegal immigrants who are dangerous or have violent criminal backgrounds. The moves differ from pledges by Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief John Morton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to focus enforcement on the most dangerous illegal immigrants. That approach represented a break from the mass factory raids and neighborhood sweeps the Bush administration used to drive up arrests.
ICE official James Chaparro wrote in an internal memo that despite record deportations of criminals, the overall number of removals was down. While ICE was on pace to achieve a goal of 150,000 criminal alien removals for the year ending Sept. 30, deportations were set to barely top 310,000, “well under the Agency’s goal of 400,000,” and nearly 20 percent behind last year’s total of 387,000, he wrote. Beyond stating ICE enforcement goals in unusually explicit terms, Chaparro laid out how the agency would pump up the numbers: by increasing detention space to hold more illegal immigrants while they await deportation proceedings; by sweeping prisons and jails to find more candidates for deportation and offering early release to those willing to go quickly; and, most controversially, with a “surge” in efforts to catch illegal immigrants whose only violation was lying on immigration or visa applications or reentering the U.S. after being deported.