U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported more illegal immigrants in fiscal year 2011 than in any other year in its history, the agency announced Tuesday.
Overall, the agency removed 396,906 individuals, nearly 55 percent (or 216,698) of whom had been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, ICE said. That group included 1,119 illegal immigrants convicted of homicide and “5,848 aliens convicted of sexual offenses; 44,653 aliens convicted of drug related crimes; and 35,927 aliens convicted of driving under the influence,” according to ICE.
“Smart and effective immigration enforcement relies on setting priorities for removal and executing on those priorities,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement.
“These year-end totals indicate that we are making progress, with more convicted criminals, recent border crossers, egregious immigration law violators and immigration fugitives being removed from the country than ever before,” Morton continued. “Though we still have work to do, this progress is a testament to the hard work and dedication of thousands of ICE agents, officers and attorneys around the country.”
The announcement comes a few months after the Department of Homeland Security, ICE’s mother agency, said it was halting some deportation cases as a matter of “prosecutorial discretion” and will review up to 300,000 cases. One report found that DHS deported illegal immigrants after minor offenses like traffic violations and loitering.
ICE’s record setting numbers were also announced as the Justice Department fights Alabama and Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration laws in court. An appeals court partially blocked enforcement of Alabama’s law, which U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said raised concerns about “vigilante enforcement of the law by private citizens.”