A new report that indicates federal officials are prosecuting and deporting fewer illegal immigrants may be flawed, according to a federal immigration authority.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened 39,331 deportee cases in immigration courts from October 2011 to December 2012, a large drop from the 58,639 filings that were recorded the prior quarter, according to a report released by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
But ICE, on Thursday, said the report was inaccurate because it has the right to deport some illegal immigrants without actually giving them time in court when they commit violent crimes, such as rape or murder.
"The TRAC report is alleging that overall we are putting fewer people in deportation proceedings," said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen. "This report is looking at the wrong data."
"When removing individuals who have been convicted of a crime and who have no lawful immigration status … ICE is not required to file charging documents in immigration court asserting criminal grounds of removal," Christensen said in statement.
ICE has yet to look at the statistics used in the report, she added.
But TRAC, which used numbers provided by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, disagrees with the claims of inaccuracy.
"It was the fact that it didn't cover all the deportations. That doesn't make it inaccurate," said Sue Long, co-director of TRAC. "[ICE] won't even release their immigration court data."
The report states that filings are usually lower during the first quarter every year, but there appeared to be 10,000 fewer deportation filings when adjusted for that average seasonal drop off.
One official at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles believes the drop off could be based on ICE Director John Morton's June 2011 memos, which outlined conditions in which illegal immigrants could avoid deportation.
"There seems to be a trend that indicates that the number of deportation cases that has being reviewed by the courts is decreasing," Jorge-Mario Cabrera, director of communications at CHIRLA. "If you look at the local trend … the expected number in Los Angeles will actually be higher."
Though quarter-by-quarter data was not immediately available, current numbers show that there were 2,095 deportee cases filed in Los Angeles last quarter, which is on pace to top last year's total of 7,331 filings. ICE being able to deport some illegal immigrants without a trial concerns Cabrera.
"It's very worrisome that ICE would even whole-heartedly accept that there are many immigrants who do not have their day in court," he said. "Their civil rights are actually being violated."
ICE removed a record-216,000 convicted criminals in the 2011 fiscal year, which is double the total from 2008.
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