Homeland Security Deported Less Than 3 Percent of Illegal Aliens in U.S. in 2009

By Penny Starr | August 16, 2010 | 6:50 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deported 298,410 illegal aliens in fiscal 2009, only 2.98 percent of the 10 million people it estimated were in the United States illegally.

The number of deportations in fiscal 2009 was far less than the 400,000--or 4 percent--that John Morton, assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said his agency was capable of deporting each year.

In a June memorandum, Morton spelled out why ICE had to prioritize its efforts to fulfill its mission of enforcing U.S. immigration law, including “the apprehension, detention and removal of aliens.” 
Morton said ICE’s mission had “direct significance for our national security, public safety, and the integrity of our border and immigration controls.” But, Morton also said ICE’s ability to remove aliens was hampered by a lack of resources.
“ICE ... only has resources to remove approximately 400,000 per year, less than 4 percent of the estimated illegal alien population in the United State,” Morton said in the memo.
In its annual financial report for fiscal year 2009, the DHS said it removed 298,401, or 2.98 percent of the total number of illegal aliens ICE estimates were in the United States that year.

A Customs and Border Patrol agent patrols along the international border after sunset in Nogales, Ariz. Thursday, April 22, 2010. Illegal immigration and border security are heating up as issues after the slaying of a border-area rancher and imminent passage of state legislation to crack down on illegal immigration. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The financial report initially stated that ICE had deported 387,790 illegal aliens but later revised the number to 298,401 after accounting showed that 89,389 of those aliens had voluntarily returned to their country of origin rather than face deportation.
The revised number is explained in a footnote of the report that says:
“Correction: Data for FY 2009 was originally reported for ‘Removing Illegal Aliens’ as 387,790 due to incorrectly including voluntary returns in the calculation. Data for FY 2005 through FY 2008 has also been updated due to reconciliations of prior year data. Narrative and chart updated to reflect these changes.”
As reported earlier by CNSNews.com, Morton issued the memorandum as part of the Obama administration’s shift in policy at DHS to focus its enforcement efforts on illegal aliens who have committed crimes in the United States rather than the general illegal alien population.
When asked by CNSNews.com why ICE has not deported the maximum 400,000 illegal aliens the agency said it is capable of deporting, a spokesperson said the larger number also reflects ICE’s role in causing people to voluntarily remove themselves.
“ICE currently has the resources to identify, apprehend and remove about 400,000 people from the country each year--including ‘voluntary returns,' individuals that ICE still expends resources to identify and apprehend, and then ensure that they do indeed follow through on voluntarily returning to their home countries,” Gillian Brigham, spokeswoman for ICE, told CNSNews.com.
“The reality is that last year ICE removed a record number of individuals from the country--the largest in the agency’s history,” Brigham said.
Brigham said programs such as Secure Communities and 287(g), which partner ICE with state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws, have helped reach those milestones.
She said that in fiscal year 2010, 50 percent of the illegal aliens who have been deported thus far have been convicted of a crime in the United States.

“Absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirements of mandatory detention, field directors should not expend detention resources on aliens who are known to be suffering from serious physical or mental illness, or who are disabled, elderly, pregnant, or nursing, or who demonstrate that they are primary caretakers of children or an infirm person, or whose detention is otherwise not in the public interest,” Morton said in his memo.