In an aggressive effort to increase deportations, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has begun to raise by nearly 25 percent the number of agents tasked with finding and deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records, pulling 150 officers from desks and backroom jobs to add extra fugitive search teams, reports the Los Angeles Times. The plan was launched when the number of deportations slumped after several years of growth, partly due to the drop in illegal immigration along the Southwest border. Critics, including some inside ICE, denounced the effort as politically inspired to help President Obama’s reelection campaign.
The move calls for increasing the number of fugitive operations teams to 129 from 104. Each team has been given a goal of arresting 50 suspects per month, although ICE insists that the number is not a quota. An early draft of the plan says ICE is “experiencing a shortfall in criminal removals for the fiscal year,” and called for using 300 Border Patrol agents to close the gap. The plan was scaled back to 150 ICE officers after objections were raised by union organizers for the Border Patrol. The fugitive teams were instructed for the first time this month to focus chiefly on finding and deporting illegal immigrants convicted of a felony or more than two misdemeanors, multiple immigration violations, or having used fraudulent documents..