Homeland Security Touts Record Criminal Removals

About half of the nearly 393,000 people removed from the country during the past year were criminals, according to Homeland Security Department statistics.

The 392,862 removals by Immigration and Customs Enforcement falls short of the agency's goal of 400,000 for the 2010 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. But it is just above the 2009 total of 389,834. About 35 percent of those immigrants were considered convicted criminals by the government.

"It has been another record-breaking year at Immigration and Customs Enforcement," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a Wednesday news conference.

The department released some of the totals and other benchmarks 28 days before November's midterm elections, in which Democrats are facing possible losses of their majorities in Congress. Some of the information was posted on a department blog in advance.

The agency also arrested 197,090 noncriminal immigrants in the 2010 fiscal year, about 56,041 fewer than the previous year.

In addition to the removals, ICE audited more than 2,200 employers in the past fiscal year. As a result it prohibited, for a limited time, 97 companies and 49 individuals from contracting with the federal government.

The agency levied more than $6.9 million in fines this year, up from $1.33 million in 2009. Courts levied an additional $30 million in fines each year.

The administration has made cracking down on employers a key part of its immigration enforcement policies, emphasizing audits of companies more than the high-profile raids done during the Bush administration.

Congress has been pressuring Homeland Security to emphasize deporting and removing people dangerous to communities or who are threats to the country.

But the Obama administration has been criticized by immigration enforcement hawks who say it has eased up on illegal immigration enforcement. Immigration advocates, on the other hand, say the administration enforcement policies have hurt families and are as bad or worse than Bush administration policies for immigrants.