More illegal immigrants with criminal convictions are being deported in recent years, driving up the number of people being removed from the U.S. say federal data reported by the Sacramento Bee. Deportation numbers for those deemed noncriminals have declined. Of the 350,000 people deported this year, more than half had criminal convictions, a 55 percent increase since 2008, says the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Noncriminal deportations – which include voluntary returns – have dropped 30 percent.
ICE officials said the trend shows a shift in the agency’s priorities to focus on removing the most dangerous criminals from the country. Mike Vaughn of ICE’s Sacramento office said the agency pays attention to anyone in the country illegally, as well as legal permanent residents who may have committed a crime that could jeopardize their status. “But if we are looking at a guy who’s just here with his family trying to better his life vs. a repeated offender, our priority is the criminal,” said Vaughn. ICE attributes the increased deportations of undocumented criminals to expanded partnerships with local and state law enforcement and technological advances such as video teleconferencing, which allows ICE to interview potential deportees in remote county jails.