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Less Than Half of 3K Detained in ICE Sweeps Convicted of Felonies

Posted: Apr 10, 2012

 For nearly a year now, the Obama Administration has promised to streamline the immigration enforcement system, focusing on serious criminals. Last week and weekend, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted a massive national sweep that that shook immigrant communities across the country. For ICE it was a show of force to demonstrate its commitment to targeting criminals and threats. But as has been the case since ICE began to shift its priorities to target “criminals,” it has simply not been possible for the agency to operate as a finely tuned machine.

ICE says the “Cross Check” raid, which swept through all 50 states and netted over 3,100 detentions, was its largest operation ever. The raids were followed by laudatory news stories about the dangerous criminals who’ve now been removed. Indeed, ICE’s figures report that nearly 90 percent of those detained had criminal histories. Yet as usual there remain questions of about who in fact the raids targeted, what their crimes were, and whether it’s ever possible for ICE to target its enforcement as long as it’s deporting historic numbers of people.

“The results of this targeted enforcement operation underscore ICE’s ongoing commitment and focus on the arrest and removal of convicted criminal aliens and those that game our nation’s immigration system,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement sent to press.

“These are people we do not want roaming our streets,” he said.

Yet ICE’s numbers show that fewer than half of those detained in the sweeps were convicted of felonies. ICE’s press release includes a list of the worst of these: a man wanted for murder in Jamaica, a Cambodia man convicted of manslaughter, a murderer from Mexico. But following the highlights reel, the data gets fuzzy. Felons, of course, are not all murders; crossing the border after a previous deportation is now counted as a felony offense that carries jail time. Nearly 700 of those counted as criminals are people whose violation is that they failed to leave the country after they were ordered to do so. And 559 were “illegal re-entrants,” people who were deported before but have returned.

Many of these people refuse to leave or come back to the United States because their families, homes, jobs and communities are here. Read more at Colorlines.com

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