GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The federal government is deporting fewer undocumented immigrants in Michigan and Ohio — but increasingly, those it does remove have been convicted of crimes.
It has been nearly three years since the federal government laid out its deportation priorities in a memo from the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Online: Read the memo (pdf)
An examination of statistics by Target 8 shows the percentage of deportees with criminal convictions has risen substantially.
“The common myth is that ICE is just going into neighborhoods randomly searching for undocumented aliens and asking people for their papers on a random basis,: U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles said. “That is not their practice at all.”
The most recent removal numbers from 2013 show approximately 73% of all removals from Michigan and Ohio had criminal convictions. It’s a nearly 10% increase from 2012 and more than a 50% increase since 2008:
- Fiscal Year of 2008: 8,010 deported; criminal: 2,151
- Fiscal Year 2009: 8,358 deported; criminal: 2, 798
- Fiscal Year 2010: 8,054 deported; criminal: 3,504
- Fiscal Year 2011: 7,298 deported; criminal: 3,741
- Fiscal Year 2012: 5,872 deported; criminal: 3,851
- Fiscal Year 2013: 4,473 deported; criminal: 3,279
ICE also targets undocumented immigrants who are deported only to return again and again, which is known as “illegal reentry”.
Target 8 sat down with the family of a young man who has been deported three times. They were wiling to share their story if their identities were concealed.
Juan and Christina say they came to the U.S. from Mexico more than a decade ago to raise their son Alejandro, who was 7 years old at the time.
“I thought it was a good place to bring my sons and raise them. They studied and learned English and I learned English too,” said Juan.
He described Alejandro as an honor roll student and star athlete.
“He graduated high school here and then was training kids for soccer. He was a great soccer player,” said Juan.
But then, Alejandro found trouble.
He was 19 when he was arrested on a charge of fraud related to a social security number. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Social Security Number Privacy Act.
After his first deportation to Mexico in 2011, Alejandro was removed from the U.S. two more times — once in 2011 and once in 2012.
ICE released a statement to Target 8 explaining Alejandro’s deportations:
“ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers encountered Alejandro in March 2011 … (when) he was being held in criminal custody following a conviction on local charges. He was processed for removal and departed the United States in April 2011. He subsequently attempted to illegally enter the United States in October 2011, was arrested by the Border Patrol and was convicted of illegally entering the United States before he was removed to Mexico a second time. ERO officers again encountered him (in a Michigan) jail in April 2012 after he pleaded guilty to local criminal charges. ERO removed him from the United States a third time in September 2012. As a convicted criminal alien and illegal reentrant, he met ICE priorities for removal from the United States. ICE is committed to sensible, effective immigration enforcement that focuses first on convicted criminal aliens, recent border crossers and egregious violators of immigration law, such as those who illegally reenter the country after deportation.”
Nationally, ICE ended 2013 with 98% of all removals meeting the agency’s civil immigration enforcement priorities, according to ICE officials.
ICE also released a statement about how it handles illegal re-entry cases:
“ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators. A key component in this strategy is our ability to present illegal re-entry cases for federal prosecution. These prosecutions, which are focused on violent criminal aliens and egregious offenders, send an important message that serious consequences await those with disregard for immigration laws and enhance public safety by removing threats to our communities.”
Target 8 spoke to a federal source about Alejandro’s removal who said despite his criminal history, Alejandro was not “public enemy number one.” But the source went on to say that he still met ICE priorities for removal.
Meanwhile, the young man’s family is concerned for his safety in Mexico because they say has no connections there, having moved to the United States when he was 7.
According to family, they began receiving college acceptance letters for Alejandro after he left the country.
“He was there and I called him and said ‘Look, my son, letters. They accepted you, come back to go to the school.’ But he said no. Now, he’s afraid,” Juan told 24 Hour News 8.