WASHINGTON (AP) — Huge increases in deportations of people after they were arrested for breaking traffic or immigration laws or driving drunk helped the Obama administration set a record last year for the number of criminal immigrants forced to leave the country, documents show.

The U.S. deported nearly 393,000 people in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, half of whom were considered criminals. Of those, 27,635 had been arrested for drunken driving, more than double the 10,851 deported after drunken driving arrests in 2008, the last full year of the Bush administration, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data provided to The Associated Press.

An additional 13,028 were deported last year after being arrested on less serious traffic law violations, nearly three times the 4,527 traffic offenders deported two years earlier, according to the data.

The spike in the numbers of people deported for traffic offenses as well as a 78 percent increase in people deported for immigration-related offenses renewed skepticism about the administration’s claims that it is focusing on the most dangerous criminals.

President Barack Obama regularly says his administration is enforcing immigration laws more wisely than his predecessor by focusing on arresting the “worst of the worst.” He promised in his 2008 presidential campaign to focus immigration enforcement on dangerous criminals. As recently as May 10, Obama said in a speech in El Paso, Texas, that his administration was focused on violent offenders and not families or “folks who are looking to scrape together an income.”

Most of the immigrants deported last year had committed drug-related crimes. They totaled 45,003, compared with 36,053 in 2008. Drug-related crime — described as the manufacture, distribution, possession or sale of drugs — has been the No. 1 crime among immigration for years. Drunken driving was third in the number of offenses last year.

An illegal immigrant from Bolivia, Carlos Montano, is awaiting trial in Virginia on charges of involuntary manslaughter in a drunken driving incident that killed Benedictine nun Denise Mosier and injured two other nuns. The case fueled national debate over deportations of criminal immigrants because Montano had two previous drunken driving arrests, in 2007 and 2008. He was not held by ICE or deported after the arrests. An ICE report concluded that new federal immigration policies would have prevented Montano’s release.

But the rise in traffic offenders in the deportation statistics and in some other categories worries immigration advocates, particularly because traffic stops are largely made by police, sheriff’s deputies and state highway patrol officers. Local law enforcement has become more involved in immigration enforcement because of new programs that encourage it.

Officers “are using their new authority to remove as many unauthorized people from their jurisdictions as they can, and that frequently means going after traffic violators instead of serious criminals,” said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at New York University Law School. The institute is a Washington-based think tank on migration.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano noted that most people in the United States are arrested for misdemeanor offenses. But she told the AP that the percentage of felons deported will change over time.

“The more serious offenders are still in prison,” she said in an interview Thursday. “We’re not going to see them reflected in the numbers until we can begin to remove them.”

The issue is one Obama is trying to carefully navigate in his bid for a second term as he relies on the record deportations numbers to bolster his tough-on-enforcement stance while trying to convince immigrant and Latino voters he deserves more time to get a comprehensive immigration bill through Congress.

Marshall Fitz, immigration policy director at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, said some of the people being counted as criminals have committed traffic violations that would usually draw a traffic ticket. But when the driver can’t produce a valid license, the officer pursues questions about immigration status.

Illegal immigrants caught in traffic stops often are pressured into signing an agreement to leave the United States and to pay a fine or somehow acknowledge responsibility for the traffic offense and thereby end up in the statistics as criminals even though they never went to court, Fitz said.

Kumar Kibble, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deputy of immigration, said in some cases people picked up on traffic offenses are found to have committed other crimes. But ICE attempts to categorize each deported immigrant in its statistics based on the worst crime in the person’s record. ICE says the statistics involve only people who have been convicted of a crime.

Darrel Stephens, executive director of Major Cities Chiefs Association, an organization of sheriffs and police chiefs, said the data show ICE is deporting criminals. He noted that even though traffic offenses have more than doubled, they are just 7 percent of the total criminal deportations. Meanwhile, dangerous drugs and drunken driving deportations comprised 23 percent and 14 percent of the criminal deportations, respectively.

The drunken driving deportations are particularly important, he said. Fatal drunken driving accidents involving illegal immigrants often cause outrage in communities where they occur.

“That’s a crime that people look at in a very serious way right now,” Stephens said.

There are an estimated 11 million people in the country illegally, 7 million to 8 million of whom are believed to be adults.

Kibble said the numbers show his agency’s system of giving priority for deportation to people who pose a public threat is working. Last year, 36,178 criminals were deported as a result of the Secure Communities program, now in place in more than 1,400 jurisdictions, up from 14 in 2008. It’s expected to be in more than 3,000 jurisdictions nationally by 2013.

Secure Communities is the Homeland Security Department’s system of identifying immigrants for deportation through fingerprints taken by local officers when booking people on criminal charges. The local law enforcement agencies routinely send the prints to the FBI for criminal background checks. The FBI shares the fingerprints with Homeland Security to look for potentially deportable immigrants, who can be in the country illegally or legally.

“The numbers are going in the right direction,” Kibble said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (29)
  1. middle of the road says:

    Wow, say it isn’t so, “ILLEGAL ALIENS” commit crimes, besides entering our country illegally? Before you bleeding hearts start to go off on me, I am an American Native, so if you do not like my viewpoint, get out of MY country.

    1. Huxley says:

      Its not the “bleeding hearts” who are against deportations. Its the corporate cheap labor supporters. Let’s give credit where credit is due- Obama admin for stepping these up. I don’t think many people in either party would support allowing an illegal alien that goes on to commit further crimes to stay. Immigration is a privilege not a right.

    2. capt.obvious says:

      Ironic immigrants that come here get many of the same rights you running horses receive, tax free, help with everything, you’re all the same to me only difference is these immigrants try to help others, were as tribes are all for 1 and 1 for all, oh yeah i forgot mystic tribe borrowed wink wink, i mean invested 20million in nebraska casino. hEY you’re pretty attractive breed lol….

    3. Whatif says:

      Your post started out so true, until you started pumping your chest stating you’re a Native American, I know you’re proud of your casinos, I’m happy also because it has eased the states burden on supporting your kind, with unlimited funds your future is very bright there are plenty of politicians with pockets that need greasing, so hop off that high horse, no pun intended, and look in the mirror you’re still unliked and unrespected as much as illegal aliens!

      1. The Architect says:

        ” so hop off that high horse, no pun intended, and look in the mirror you’re still unliked and unrespected as much as illegal aliens!”

        What a rude thing to say. You do NOT speak for me. As far as I’m concerned, you just moved yourself to the bottom of the barrel when it comes to trashy people.

      2. Jim says:

        I hate racist d-bags like “Whatif” a lot more than illegal aliens. Can they be deported?

    4. Me says:

      Sorry, middle of the road, we’re mostly a bunch of multi-generational anchor babies posting here. But my hubby can stay becuase he’s an American Hispanic. You must know him!

    5. Grow up says:

      If I need to get out of “your” country, I would have to leave what is now RUSSIA.. Because that’s where your ancestors came from before they migrated here. I was born here. I am a native American too. Get over it.

      1. Whatif says:

        You’re nothing is what you are, I wouldn’t trade a bag of turds for your life.

  2. See BS says:

    Mexico has been cited by Amnesty International for the human trafficking of migrants and children from El Salvador.

    Scandinavian Countries are good at kicking out migrants and the USA seems to be rejecting a lot of Europeans who want to be in the USA.

    Democrats just race bait for votes that’s all, if the USA is rejecting people from Europe the 14th amendment requires migrants from Central and South America to go home too.

    1. What BS? says:

      What are you on about? The article talks about the current administration deporting far more individuals than the previous administration. It does not mention where they are being deported to. You are making an assumption and then playing a race card with no information to back it up.

      1. See BS says:

        Liberals are behaving just like the Nazis and giving racial preference to people from Central and South America.

        I have friends from Europe who want to live here too, but they are being rejected by the State Department. And if I want to live with my brother in Europe, I have to know how to speak the language to get a work visa.

        I bet you didn’t know Norway, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Canada, Central and South America stole land from Indians too.

        So in other words, you don’t see protesters with Nazi signs in the news when Obama cracks down on illegals. Because we have a fascist corporate run media with a political agenda.

  3. Ferris Lind says:

    And i suppose if this increase happend over Bush’s watch … Well then the Liberals would be yelling Racist’s

  4. Kevin says:

    Your kidding? 390,000 deported….while 5 million to who the hel* knows millions crossed over…..CLOSE THE BORDER and DEPORT ALL ILLEGALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Lisa says:

      Sure Kevin, Sure… maybe you should go back where you come from to…

      1. Tiredofpayingforillegals says:

        I agree they are ILLEGAL in this country yet they get treated better than most Americans, I am talking also about Americans that came here LEGALLY and worked their butts off to become Americans. These people already did a crime by coming here ILLEGALLY and should be deported not wait for them to do some other crimes. Look the word up ILLEGAL and than learn what it really means.

      2. Kevin says:

        I am an American citizen moron…I am from Ohio….They are here illegally…….they are ciminals! They are sucking the welfare system DRY! You are a moron….and shoudl walk to the nearest bridge and cleanse the gene pool….

  5. THE OTHER KEVIN says:


  6. trl the alligator says:

    there are thousands of these illegals that outwardly profess that they are in gangs and doing criminal behavior….why aren’t these types outwardly targeted and removed from our country?……more deportations is always a good note but our country still falls far short of deporting as many as we should be…..there are millions of them and what we have done so far is really just a drop in the bucket.

  7. Del says:

    And they ALL crawled back across the border on their bellies to continue their crimes in the USA.

  8. M B says:

    The fact is, illegal immigrants broke the law to get here, plain and simple. It’s not hard to see that if they’re willing to do that, then they will break the law again if it suits them. I’d say 400,000 of them prove me right.

    It’s hard to say that we shouldn’t provide them anything, because that violates the medical Hippocratic oath, but that same field is where they cost us the most (by using emergency rooms as medical care), as well as crimes performed.

    I would *almost* say it would be cheaper to invade Mexico, fix their corruption and drug problems, and let them all go back home to a better nation. Of course, that’s a pipe dream, but other than building a bigger wall across the border, it seems to be the only answer to the millions of them streaming across into this country.

  9. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    We live in a Sanctuary City…so they are pretty safe here, and now that the state is up and functioning, they can get their welfare benefits too!

  10. Pablo says:

    Deport me again, You pay for the ride…I come back with different name and get all the free stuff and my wife has baby. Now we get more money. you pay for it all. I am not bad. You let me do this. You have weak and mostly funny laws for this… We laugh about them. Good meal too while waiting for deporting. The Government people would do something bad to you if you tried to do this in my country. Yet some of your country people say you are wrong. …very funny law.

  11. MARK says:

    Nice job, Obama administration.

  12. jan says:

    Ferris Line– nice apostrophe..racist’s….racist’s what?

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