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Rogelio V. Solis/AP
U.S. Marshal deputies direct several suspected illegal immigrants from the federal
courthouse in Hattiesburg, Miss., to a waiting van for transportation to an overnight
holding facility.

Deportation of Illegal Aliens Reaches All-Time High

November 07, 2008 03:29 PM
by Isabel Cowles
An initiative by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has spurred a rise in the number of illegal aliens with criminal records being deported.

Criminal Illegal Aliens Are Targeted

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This year saw a rise in the number of deportations across the nation: more than 345,000 illegal aliens were removed from the U.S., compared to 288,000 in 2007.

In the Pacific Northwest, deportations reached an all-time high, as the ICE expelled 10,602 aliens from Washington, Oregon and Alaska in the fiscal year of 2008. Those deportations marked an almost 40 percent increase from 2007, when 7,688 illegal aliens were sent home. Almost a third of those deported in 2008 had criminal histories, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

According to an official statement, “ICE attributes the increase in deportations to the recent expansion of the Criminal Alien Program (CAP), which focuses on identifying criminal aliens incarcerated in federal, state and local facilities. Once a criminal alien is identified, ICE lodges an immigration detainer against the individual to ensure they are turned over to ICE for removal upon completion of their criminal sentence.”

The ICE has created other initiatives nationwide to target specific types of criminal illegal immigrants. For example, “Operation Predator” has been targeting illegal alien sex offenders since 2003, and many states have taken an active role in aiding ICE officials with deportations.

Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, said of his state, “The bottom line is Virginia is not going to be a place where criminal illegal aliens will have any safety. We are going to make sure that those people who come here illegally and violate the criminal laws of Virginia, are detained, prosecuted and deported.” McDonnell was referring to the February deportation of 171 illegal alien sex offenders by federal agents, including approximately 20 from northern Virginia.

Some lawmakers are hoping to tighten measures further by targeting countries where illegal aliens are from. In March, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. introduced legislation to expedite the deportation of criminal aliens. According to Specter’s Senate Web site, “the Accountability in Immigrant Repatriation (AIR) Act of 2008…would impose sanctions on countries that refuse to take back aliens that have been convicted of crimes in the United States and other aliens who are under a final order of removal.”

Many attribute the stepped-up efforts if the ICE to the terrorist attacks of 2001, which put customs officials on the offensive. But some argue that while enforcement may be stricter, courts that properly try illegal aliens accused of crimes are having a difficult time accommodating the complicated relationship between criminal and immigration law, which differs from state to state. Miami-based Denise Slavin, who serves as vice president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, explained that the onslaught of cases “[has] been a big burden on our system. We're dealing with more complex cases and fewer resources.”

Reference: ICE reports and initiatives

Related Topic: Immigration resources

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