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We Need Truth In Advertising Laws To Govern DHS When It Comes To New Deportation Numbers

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Truth IN advertisingThe Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the latest deportation numbers this week. As FDL’s David Dayen reports:

The news that the Obama Administration deported 400,000 undocumented immigrants in the last fiscal year, setting another record, did not come as welcome news to immigration advocates.

That’s right. 

This week, DHS announced another record-breaking year in immigration enforcement, deporting just under 400,000 immigrants in FY 2011.  According to DHS, they are targeting the “worst of the worst,” an assertion they tout by highlighting the fact that 55%, or 216,698, of those deported were so-called “criminal aliens.”   In the announcement, DHS indicated that 40% of criminal deportees had committed one of four types of offenses.  That’s 87,547 of the nearly 400,000 deportees.  However, for the other 60% of “criminals” that made up the majority of deportees last year, DHS gives no explanation as to what sort of “crime” they committed.  Why would DHS release specific categories on some of the “criminal” deportees, but leave the majority of them without explanation?

We can look to the Secure Communities program – one of the key programs feeding the deportation pipeline – as an important example of DHS’ tendency to overstate what a “criminal” looks like.  We already know that nearly 60% of all deportees under Secure Communities either had no criminal convictions or had only been convicted of minor crimes or traffic violations.  A new report analyzing Secure Communities confirms this fact.  Clearly, a large number of “criminals” deported by DHS would not be considered serious offenders by any common sense definition of the term. 

In the report released Wednesday, experts from the Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law examined Secure Communities and found that the majority of people identified for deportation through this “criminal” program were not being deported for criminal reasons.  Only 27% were in deportation proceedings for having committed crimes, including 8% being deported because of aggravated felonies.  The rest were simply being deported because of immigration violations.    

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund put it like this:

DHS has to come clean about its deportation numbers.  How many of the “criminals” it is deporting are actually dangerous people?  And how many are just fathers on their way to work, pulled over by police who think it’s their job to determine who is legal and who isn’t?  This new report from the Warren Institute and Cardozo Law School is just the latest round of evidence to show that Secure Communities is badly missing the mark, sweeping up hard-working immigrants who haven’t committed any real crime instead of zeroing in on the “worst of the worst.”

 The Warren Institute-Cardozo study identified a number of other troubling facts about Secure Communities that confirm what immigrant advocates have been saying for years.  Despite DHS’ claims that Secure Communities is a “neutral” program, it is clearly being fed via racial profiling.  While 77% of the undocumented population in the United States is Latino, 93% of those detained through Secure Communities are Latino.  They are also disproportionately young and male, making it clear that “driving while young, male, and Latino” is, in fact, a criminal offense in some jurisdictions.  Community policing is suffering because local cops are now deportation agents, and immigrants are afraid to go to the police.  And, as many as 3,600 U.S. citizens have been arrested by ICE in the three years the program has been in operation, a chilling statistic the Department should be forced to explain and correct for the future. 

Despite insisting that they are focusing deportations on the “worst of the worst,” a large number of people being deported by the Obama Administration are not high priority criminals.  And, despite claiming that Secure Communities targets only criminals, fresh evidence shows that’s just not the case.  Clearly, we need truth in advertising laws to govern DHS when it comes to its deportation numbers and programs.

Access New Warren Institute Report on Secure Communities here.