Record number of immigrants deported from Northwest
By raiding homes and scouring jails and prisons, the U.S. government deported a record number of immigrants from the Northwest during the 12 months leading up to September.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Raiding homes and scouring jails and prisons, the U.S. government deported a record number of immigrants from the Northwest region during the 12 months leading up to September.
Some 10,602 people in Washington, Oregon and Alaska were returned to their home countries during that time — the majority of them to Mexico. The number represents a 38 percent increase from last year's deportations, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Nearly a third of those deported had criminal convictions, ICE said.
"Our priority has been public safety and getting these aliens, who have committed crimes or are charged with committing crimes, located and removed from the country before they have a chance to get back on the street," said Neil Clark, who oversees ICE's detention and removal operations for a three-state region.
The region's deportations outpaced the national trend, which saw a record 345,700 people deported during the 2008 fiscal year — up 16 percent from the previous year.
The U.S. government deports not only illegal immigrants but also those in the country legally — holders of so-called green cards — who have been convicted of certain crimes.
While ICE doesn't provide information about where deportees are sent, a look at those held in the Tacoma detention center gives an idea of who is getting deported.
Some 92 percent of the 877 people currently at the Northwest Detention Center are men. More than half of them are from Mexico and more than two-thirds from Latin America.
Among those deported are fugitive immigrants who never left the country after being ordered removed by an immigration judge. Often they are picked up at their homes during early-morning raids, when officials often also discover, arrest and detain others living there.
Clark credits much of this year's increase in deportations to a beefed-up Criminal Alien Program (CAP), under which ICE officers scour jails, prisons and courtrooms in search of immigrants who are deportable. Officials then place holds on these immigrants to ensure they will be turned over to ICE once they've completed their criminal sentences.
In the three-state region in the past year, ICE has placed holds on 800 to 1,000 jailed immigrants a month through this program. A year ago, it was tagging 300 to 400 a month.
Not all end up with criminal convictions, but all are eligible in some way for deportation.
"Our numbers are up on both criminal and overall removal," Clark said. "The message is that our enforcement programs are working."
Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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