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DHS releases report on immigration detention and deportation

North Carolina readers may be interested in a Department of Homeland Security report released last month. The report is full of data on the number of immigrants who have been detained and deported back to their home countries. The report shows two divergent trends in immigration detention. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies are detaining record numbers of undocumented immigrants, the Border Patrol is reporting some of the lowest detention numbers in decades.

The economic climate and ICE's aggressive deportation enforcement explain the apparent contradiction. In 1997, the Border Patrol detained roughly 1.3 million undocumented immigrants. At the time, the economy was riding high before the 2000 tech bubble burst. By 2011, after the housing market crash, the number of detentions had fallen to less than 350,000. Fewer people want to risk a border crossing because the old opportunities are no longer as plentiful.

On the other side of the coin, ICE's detention and deportation numbers have risen due to a galvanized enforcement effort. From 2007 to 2011, ICE deported nearly 2 million illegal immigrants. The Homeland Security report reveals that 429,000 undocumented immigrants were detained by ICE in 2011, and 188,000 immigrants with prior criminal histories were sent back to their country of origin. The number of deportations of immigrants with criminal records accounted for just over half of all deportations last year.

Deportation can split families and harm livelihoods. The fate of an immigrant who has been detained by ICE can be unclear in some cases. That is why it is important for immigrants who are subject to deportation proceedings to understand what legal options they have to resolve their case and remain with their families.

Source: The Miami Herald, "Report: Number of undocumented immigrants arrested and deported in 2011 hits record high," Alfonso Chardy, Sept. 20, 2012

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