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Controversial deportation tactics uncovered in government emails

Over the past several years, the Obama Administration has described its immigration policy as focusing on the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes, while halting some efforts to deport those who are considered low-priority cases.

However, USA TODAY recently obtained internal emails from top immigration officials that seem to approve new tactics for deporting immigrants who had been convicted of crimes in effort to meet the government's deportation targets. Some of the new tactics, which were sent out last year, were aimed at deporting immigrants with minor crimes on their records.

USA TODAY reported that one of the tactics involved searching through state driver's license records for applicants who were born in other countries. Another in initiative involved sending U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to traffic safety checkpoints performed by state police departments. A third initiative advised pursuing deportation against immigrant who had been booked on low-level criminal offenses.

The new tactics appeared to be the result of falling criminal deportations. However, an ICE spokeswoman insisted in a statement that "ICE does not have quotas." She said ICE does have "annual performance goals," but she declined to comment on whether ICE implemented the new tactics as a way to meet the performance goals.

Immigrant advocates say the new initiatives stray from the government's plan to focus on deporting those who pose a threat in the United States. The director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association said the government has instead decided to "increase its criminal alien numbers by pursuing people with minor offenses like traffic violations."

At this point, it remains unclear how many -- if any -- immigrants were deported based on the proposed tactics. The emails detailing the tactics were originally obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina pursuant to the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Source: USA TODAY, "Immigration tactics aimed at boosting deportations," Brad Heath, Feb. 14, 2013

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