Immigration deporting more criminals in 2008

SALT LAKE CITY — Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased the number of local criminal immigrants deported during 2008, while the number of noncriminal immigrants deported decreased.

Nationally, the total number of immigrants deported by ICE was 345,710, an increase of 20 percent between 2007 and 2008. Of that total, 107,269 immigrants had criminal convictions, a 6 percent increase since last year.

Deportations nationally increased 68 percent between 2005 and 2008.

The federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The data includes Utah, Nevada, Montana and Idaho, the area of responsibility for the Salt Lake City field office. ICE released the data last week.

U.S. Border Patrol agents saw a 17 percent reduction in apprehensions, according to a separate news release. Another 93 miles of fencing was added along the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing the total fence length to 370 miles. The border’s total length is 1,969 miles.

The increase in deportations for the four-state area, including Utah, and nationally was due in large part to the Criminal Alien Program, which aims to determine jail and prison inmates’ immigration statuses prior to their release.

Jail officials at Davis and Weber county sheriff’s departments sought training to participate in the Criminal Alien Program this year. Under that program, inmates’ immigration statuses are reviewed regularly by jail staff, and those with suspected immigration violations can be turned over to ICE rather than released at the end of their term.

As of August, there were 63 local law enforcement bodies nationwide working with ICE on the Criminal Apprehension Program, up 29 since November 2007.

Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Jeff Nigbur said his agency is awaiting a report in the upcoming session of the Legislature before making formal arrangements with ICE.

“We haven’t cross-deputized anyone as an ICE agent,” Nigbur said. “It’s been business as usual. We still work through usual procedures (with ICE).

Nigbur said UHP has no ability to proactively enforce immigration laws, but he said particularly rural deputies would benefit from being able to check arrestees’ immigration statuses. It can take “days or hours” to hear back from ICE regarding immigration issues, Nigbur said.

The Salt Lake City field office also removed more immigrants this year under the Fugitive Operations Program, which targets people who have defied court deportation orders.

California-based ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said the data cannot be further divided to show activity in individual states.