Despite a clear directive from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton issued June 17, 2011, strongly encouraging ICE and Customs and Border Protection officials to concentrate on the removal of illegal aliens with serious criminal records and those that represent a threat to the national security of the United States, removal actions have actually declined for aliens who fit those categories and represented only 15.3 percent of the 235,606 removal actions filed in 2011, and thus far this year criminal removal actions have declined even further representing a mere 14.4 percent of the 174,004 removal actions filed as of the end of March, according to a university website that tracks alien removal actions.
In his June 17th directive, Morton stressed that ICE. and CBP officials strongly use their prosecutorial discretion and concentrate on removing illegal aliens who poses a clear risk to national security, known gang members, serious felons, those with lengthy criminal histories, those who pose a serious danger to public safety and those who have committed immigration fraud.
In the same directive Morton encouraged that ICE and CBP officials look at what he referred to as “positive factors” which include veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Forces, victims of human trafficking, victims of domestic violence, minors and elderly individuals, those who suffer from serious mental or physical disabilities and those with serious health conditions, when considering to initiate removal proceedings.
Morton listed some factors for ICE and CBP officials to consider when deciding to initiate removal proceedings for illegal aliens including, the person’s length of presence in the United States, the person’s ties to the community and family members in the United States, the person’s pursuit of a legitimate education-especially one enrolled in an institution of higher learning and whether the person or a member of the person’s immediate family has served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In his directive, Morton said “ICE, however, has limited resources to remove those illegally in the United States. ICE must prioritize the use of its enforcement personnel, detention space, and removal assets to ensure that the aliens it removes represent, as much as reasonably possible, the agency's enforcement priorities, namely the promotion of national security, border security, public safety, and the integrity of the immigration system.
Clearly, in his directive, Morton was telling ICE Field Office Directors, Special Agents in Charge and ICE’s Chief Counsel that ICE and CBP has limited detention space and resources that can be devoted to removing illegal aliens from the United States, and to concentrate its efforts to remove the most dangerous illegal aliens from the United States.
Yet despite Morton’s directive, according to information obtained from the TRAC (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse) Immigration website hosted by Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York; starting with fiscal year 2011 to the present, ICE and CBP removal proceedings against aliens for criminal reasons have dramatically decreased from 35,000 to 25,000 while removal for administrative or immigration violations have dropped from a little under 200,000 to a projected 145,127 as of March.
In FY 2011, 129,419 illegal aliens were ordered removed for administrative reasons compared with 29,854 for criminal and national security reasons. Thus far through the end of March 108,050 have been removed for administrative reasons and only 25,954 for criminal and national security reasons.
The TRAC Immigration data clearly show that ICE and CBP officials are still concentrating on the administrative removal of illegal aliens who do not appear to pose a danger to the Nation’s national security and public safety, yet at the same time appear to be ignoring those aliens with lengthy criminal histories, gang members and those that present a threat to the Nation’s national security.
TRAC's findings are based on case-by-case data obtained from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act.