DHS officials defend deportation prioritization policies

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Administration officials defended their policy to focus on deporting illegal immigrants who commit crimes against criticism from the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee's border and maritime security subcommittee.

In an Oct. 4 hearing, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) criticized the policy of "administrative amnesty" that she said strains Border Patrol. In fact, that was the title of the hearing: "Does Administrative Amnesty Harm our Efforts to Gain and Maintain Operational Control of the Border?"

The policy sends the message that "if you make it past our border you're scot-free and you can stay here unless you commit a serious crime," Miller said in her opening statement. "Even then there's no guarantee that these illegal aliens will be deported and sent to their home."

But Kumar Kibble, deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in response to questions that prioritization efforts are not limited to criminal aliens. Only about half of the roughly 400,000 detainees deported annually have committed crimes, he said. The other half includes several categories, including people considered national security threats. 

Still, he said in prepared testimony, last year the effort resulted in a record number of deportations of aliens who have committed crimes. Of those deported for other reasons, "more than two thirds were either recent border entrants or repeat immigration law violators," he testified.  

Prosecutorial discretion helps ICE "enhance the allocation of resources devoted to the removal of priority aliens" and better support the Border Patrol along the Southwest border, Michael Fisher, chief of the Border Patrol, said in his prepared testimony. 

The following day, in remarks delivered at American University, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano staunchly defended the prioritization efforts as a common-sense use of resources, not amnesty. 

"It makes sense to prioritize our finite resources on removing a Mexican citizen who is wanted for murder in his home country ahead of a Mexican national who is the sole provider for his American citizen spouse," she said, citing a series of recent real-world examples.

"It makes sense to remove a Costa Rican man convicted of sexual assault against a minor before we spend the time and money to send a mother back to her violent and abusive husband in Jamaica, separating her from her American-born children," she said.

"Finally, it makes sense to prioritize resources on the removal of a Chinese man convicted of aggravated assault and weapons offenses before removing a 10th-grade student who was brought to this country when he was a child," added Napolitano.

For more:
- see Miller's opening statement
- read Kibble's prepared testimony
- read Napolitano's remarks

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