The Department of Homeland Security imprisoned a record number of individuals last year and upped the number of people removed or returned from the United States to over 715,000, its newly released annual report indicates. John Simanski & Lesley M. Sapp, Immigration Enforcement Actions: 2011 Annual Report (September 2012). Compiled by staffers at the department’s Office of Immigration Statistics, the Annual Report is a yearly snapshot of immigration law enforcement efforts.
The total number of people removed or returned in fiscal year 2011 was 715,495. Of these, 391,953 were removed after being issued an order of removal, a jump from the previous year’s 385,100 but a small drop from FY 2009’s 393,457. Simanski & Sapp, Immigration Enforcement Actions at 5 tbl.5. This includes individuals removed through expedited removal, reinstatement of removal, and “other removals.” Unfortunately, DHS doesn’t explain what it means by “other removals.” As far as I can tell, though, this means removal through the ordinary removal process authorized by INA § 240.
Of the number removed, DHS categorized 188,382 as “criminal aliens.” Simanski & Sapp, Immigration Enforcement Actions at 6 tbl. 7. These individuals had a prior criminal conviction of some sort, though they were not necessarily removed as a result of that conviction. The leading categories of crimes committed by members of this group were drug offenses (43,262), criminal traffic offenses (43,022), and immigration offenses (37,458). A full 65.7% of the total number of “criminal aliens” had been convicted of one of these crimes.
In addition to the number removed, DHS “returned” 323,542 individuals. DHS defines a return as “[t]he confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States not based on an order of removal.” Simanski & Sapp, Immigration Enforcement Actions at 2 box 1. In effect, this means individuals turned back at or near the border. DHS notes that this is “a decline of 32 percent from 2010 and the lowest number since 1970.” Simanski & Sapp, Immigration Enforcement Actions at 6. Presumably this is related to the fact that fewer people have been trying to come to the United States in recent years.
While DHS was busy removing and returning these individuals, it was able to detain a record number of individuals: 429,247. Simanski & Sapp, Immigration Enforcement Actions at 5 tb.4. This is the first time I can remember DHS topping 400,000. In FY 2010, it imprisoned 363,064 and in FY 2009 it held 383,524. Simanski & Sapp, Immigration Enforcement Actions at 5 tbl.4.