(CNSNews.com) – A “small number” of illegal aliens who had “committed no other crime” apart from being in the United States unlawfully were deported in fiscal year 2011, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers Wednesday
“One of the things we must do in DHS [Department of Homeland Security] is prioritize the mission,” she said during a House Appropriations Committee Homeland Security subcommittee hearing.
“And those that have committed no other crime, and we look at other factors – length of time in the United States, family relations, ties in the United States, service in the military and the like. Those would be low priority matters.”
Napolitano was responding to questions put by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ala.), the House Appropriations Committee chairman, who wanted to know how many of the estimated 14-20 million illegal aliens believed to be in the country were being deported by the DHS.
She replied that roughly 400,00 individuals were removed from the U.S. in FY2011, 90 percent of whom fell under priorities set out in March 2011 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), focusing on criminals and other dangerous illegal aliens.
“But were there any deported that were just simply here illegally?” Rogers asked.
“There were a small number that would have been picked up, and yes,” Napolitano replied.
She explained that 90 percent of those deported “were in one of our categories” while the remaining 10 percent were deported “for a variety of reasons.”
In the case of “those that have committed no other crime” the department would take into consideration factors such as length of stay in the country, military service and family ties in the U.S.
When Aderholt asked whether that amounted to “amnesty,” Napolitano disagreed, saying the term was “way too overused with respect to immigration.” She defended the DHS by citing the 10 percent who are removed for reasons other than criminal status.
According to DHS and ICE figures, 396,906 illegal aliens were deported in fiscal year 2011. Of all those removed, 9.5 percent are listed as “other removable aliens.”
On March 2, 2011, ICE Director John Morton issued a memo outlining priorities for the apprehension, detention, and removal of aliens.
The three priorities listed in the memo were: Aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety; recent illegal entrants; and aliens who are fugitives or otherwise obstruct immigration controls.
Transcript of exchange between Rogers and Napolitano:
Rogers: I want to ask you about our illegal immigration deportation policy. I know that you are deporting criminal aliens and I congratulate you on that. That’s what we all want. My question, though, deals with those non-criminal illegal aliens -- people who have not committed a crime in this country, or at least convicted it. Are we deporting any of those people?
Rogers: How many?
Napolitano: Well, FY ’11 – the last year we have numbers for – we removed from the country roughly 400,000 individuals. Of those, 55 percent had criminal convictions. That’s a much higher number than a couple years ago when it was in the low 30s. But the remainder fit within other priorities – they were fugitives, some existing warrants, they were recent border crossers, they were repeat violators – they meet other of or priority guidelines in ICE.
Rogers: But were there any deported that were just simply here illegally?
Napolitano: There were a small number that would have been picked up, and yes.
Napolitano: I would, well in FY ’11, 90 percent of all those deported were in one of our categories. They were criminal aliens, recent border crossers, repeat violators, fugitives from warrants, and that remainder – 10 percent had a variety of reasons why they were deported. Some of them were deported because they were picked up in conjunction with others who were being arrested. There’s a variety of reasons, as you know.
Rogers: You say recent border crossers.
Napolitano: Excuse me please?
Rogers: What do you mean recent border crossers?
Napolitano: Those that we picked up near the border. We are actually making – we are not just turning them around and busing them back across the border. We’re actually putting them into the system. They get a record. They are actually removed from the country. That’s helpful in a number of ways, one of which is it gives us greater flexibility of how to deal with them if we find them as a repeat violator.
Rogers: There are an estimated 13, 14 million – or whatever – illegal aliens in the country. The great bulk of whom have not committed a crime. What is the policy of the administration on, ah, dealing with those illegal aliens who have not committed a crime and are not recent border crossers?
Napolitano: Or in other category priorities. Well, as you said in your opening statement, you know, one of the things we must do in DHS is prioritize the mission. And those that have committed no other crime – and we look at other factors; length of time in the United States, family relations – ties in the United States – service in the military, and the like. Those would be low priority matters.
Rogers: Well, some people say, you’ve given those people amnesty; that they no longer need worry about being here illegally. What do you say to that?
Napolitano: Well, I think the amnesty is, quite frankly, way too overused with respect to immigration. This is an area that profoundly needs to be reexamined by the Congress for a whole host of reasons. But the fact of the matter is, the numbers, as I laid out to you in FY ’11, 90 percent of those removed, did fall within mission priorities as we have stated them. Ten percent did not, but they were still removed from the country.