SALT LAKE CITY — Federal immigration officials deported a record number of illegal immigrants last year — the seventh year in a row — the Department of Homeland Security reported on Wednesday.
However, the number of people that agents caught actually trying to cross the border was down by 23 percent.
In short, the new numbers released on Wednesday could give ammunition to both sides of the immigration reform debate in Utah. It may show that efforts are picking up to deport those who are here illegally (which anti-reform critics say shows more enforcement laws are not needed), but also shows that the borders are not secure (which some say shows reform is needed).
Homeland Security released on Wednesday its annual report on immigration enforcement actions for fiscal 2009, which was from Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2009.
The report said that "393,000 foreign nationals were removed (by formal orders) from the United States — the seventh consecutive record high. The leading countries of origin for those removed were Mexico (72 percent), Guatemala (7 percent) and Honduras (7 percent)."
People who were removed came from a total of 182 different countries.
Besides those formally deported, the report said another 580,000 foreign nationals were allowed to return to their home countries without a removal order.
Among those formally removed were 128,00 immigrants convicted of crimes. Among them, 29.6 percent were convicted of drug charges; 15.9 percent committed traffic offenses; 15.4 percent were convicted of immigration offenses such as false claims of citizenship or alien smuggling; 7.4 percent were convicted of assault; and 3.3 percent were convicted of larceny.
At the border, the report said the Border Patrol and other Homeland Security agencies apprehended 613,000 foreign nationals. It said 86 percent were natives of Mexico.
The number of people apprehended was down from 791,568 in fiscal 2008 and 960,756 in 2007. The report did not say why numbers were down, except to say that part of it is "due to a change in reporting practices."
About 88 percent of entry arrests were made on the Mexican border, the report said.
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