Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief John Morton has been quick to deny the agency sets quotas for deportations after a Washington Post story revealed an internal memo stating just that.
“We are strongly committed to carrying out our priorities to remove serious criminal offenders first and we definitively do not set quotas,” Morton wrote in a statement posted on ICE’s website hours after the story ran on Saturday.
The statement repeated the Obama administration line that deportations are focused on immigrants who have committed crimes. Pro-immigration reform activists have criticized that position, saying that many families are being separated by rules that apply even to people who have served time in prison and gone on to reform their lives.
The story in the Post quoted a February 22 memo from James M. Chaparro, head of ICE’s detention and removal operations, where he complained that the overall number of immigrant removals was down.
“Non-criminal Removals are Falling Short of our Goal,” a headline said in the document, posted online by the newspaper (see on pdf).
The memo added,
“Current non-criminal removal projections put is (sic) well short of our FY10 goal. As of February 15, 2010, DRO removed or returned 60,397 non-criminal aliens which is an average of 437 removals/returns per day. The current non-criminal removal rate projections will result in 159,740 removals at the close of the fiscal year. Coupling this with the projections in criminal removals only gives us a total of just over 310,000 overall removals — well under the Agency’s goal of 400,000.”
After the article was published, Morton responded that “significant portions of the memo cited in The Washington Post … did not reflect our policies, was sent without my authorization, and has since been withdrawn and corrected.”
However,the American Immigration Lawyers Association blog noted that “Chaparro is not simply someone who follows policy but a high level official who sets policy.”
The writer, David Leopold, added, “the fact that his memo was sent more than a month ago without any apparent corrective action by Morton or (DHS Secretary Janet) Napolitano further undermines ICE and DHS’s credibility and capability to implement reforms announced in the fall.”
“How embarrassing for ICE to have such public disagreement within its ranks,” wrote Michelle Waslin, of the Immigration Impact blog.