ICE walks back from memo setting deportation quotas; "inconsistent with the administration's point of view"

A few days ago, Spencer Hsu and Andrew Becker of the Washington Post offered "ICE officials set quotas to deport more illegal immigrants" (link):

Seeking to reverse a steep drop in deportations, U.S. immigration authorities have set controversial new quotas for agents. At the same time, officials have stepped back from an Obama administration commitment to focus enforcement efforts primarily on illegal immigrants who are dangerous or have violent criminal backgrounds.

The moves, outlined in internal documents and a recent e-mail by a senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official to field directors nationwide, differ from pledges by ICE chief (John Morton) and his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, to focus enforcement on the most dangerous illegal immigrants. That approach represented a break from the mass factory raids and neighborhood sweeps the Bush administration used to drive up arrests.

In a Feb. 22 memo, (James Chaparro), head of ICE detention and removal operations, wrote that, despite record deportations of criminals, the overall number of removals was down. While ICE was on pace to achieve "the Agency goal of 150,000 criminal alien removals" for the year ending Sept. 30, total deportations were set to barely top 310,000, "well under the Agency's goal of 400,000," and nearly 20 percent behind last year's total of 387,000, he wrote.

...ICE spokesman (Brian Hale) distanced the agency from Chaparro's remarks, saying, "Portions of the memo were inconsistent with ICE, inconsistent with the administration's point of view and inconsistent with the secretary." He added that the agency has moved to "clarify" the situation.

John Morton responded to the article with his own press release (

"ICE is required by Congress to submit annual performance goals as part of the budgetary process and our longstanding focus remains on smart, effective immigration enforcement that places priority first on those dangerous criminal aliens who present risk to the security of our communities.

This focus has yielded real results – between FY2008 and FY2009, criminal deportations increased by 19% and this priority continues in FY10 with 40% more criminal aliens removed to date as compared to the same period last year.

Significant portions of the memo cited in The Washington Post (3/27/10 - Becker/Hsu) did not reflect our policies, was sent without my authorization, and has since been withdrawn and corrected.

We are strongly committed to carrying out our priorities to remove serious criminal offenders first and we definitively do not set quotas."

Note also that Hsu and Becker refer to "illegal immigrants whose only violation was lying on immigration or visa applications or reentering the United States after being deported". The first is one of the ways that the 911 hijackers were able to enter the U.S. That doesn't (of course) mean that everyone who lies is a terrorist, but downplaying lying exposes the U.S. to the risk of terrorists entering. The second is probably a felony in all cases.