U.S. immigration agencies say anti-terrorism is their primary mission, but they tried to deport only 12 people on terrorism-related charges from 2004 through 2006, says a new study reported by the Associated Press. The 12 are a tiny fraction of the 814,073 people the government tried to remove from the country during those three years. The study’s authors acknowledge the figure understates the anti-terrorism effort by the Homeland Security Department’s immigration agencies. Because no one knows how many terrorists are in the U.S. or tried to get in, there is no way to say whether the figure of 12 is too low, too high or about right.
“The right number is unknowable,” said study co-author David Burnham. “But the budget and powers of this agency are influenced by all their talk and rhetoric about terrorism and criminals and if that isn’t what they are doing, it should be considered by Congress and the public.” Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the study failed to appreciate record-setting enforcement totals. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, based at Syracuse University, analyzed the work of two Homeland Security agencies: Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. Records were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. TRAC also found that a separate, broader category of national security charges were brought to try to deport 114 people more during the three years. Criminal charges such as human trafficking and drug dealing were used against 106,878, or 13 percent of those the government tried to deport.