ICE Releases Memo Showing Agency Has Resources to Remove Only 4% of Illegal Aliens A Year

By Penny Starr | July 6, 2010 | 2:00 PM EDT

Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, is shown here announcing narcotic-related arrests with Attorney General Eric Holder, left, last month. (Photo courtesy of ICE)

( – In a June 30 memorandum, John Morton, assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said that enforcing civil immigration laws is vital to “our national security, public safety, and the integrity of our border and immigration controls.”
But Morton also said that ICE only has the resources to remove about 400,000 illegal aliens each year, a litle less than 4 percent of the current population of those in the United States illegally.
In the memo, Morton said that because of the lack of resources, ICE must prioritize how it uses its personnel and detention facilities.
“In light of the large number of administrative violations the agency is charged with addressing and the limited enforcement resources the agency has available, ICE must prioritize the use of its enforcement personnel, detention space, and removal resources to ensure that the removals the agency does conduct promote the agency's highest enforcement priorities, namely national security, public safety, and border security,” the memorandum states.
The memo further says that “aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety shall be ICE's highest immigration enforcement priority.”
The memo also spells out which illegal aliens should not be detained.
“Absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirements of mandatory detention, field office 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 demonstrate that they are primary caretakers of children or an infirm person, or whose detention is otherwise not in the public interest,” reads the memorandum.
The memorandum says that in prosecuting the cases of illegal aliens,  “particular care should be given when dealing with lawful permanent residents, juveniles, and the immediate family members of U.S. citizens.”
Morton, in the memo, said that “additional guidance on prosecutorial discretion is forthcoming."