Local ICE Office Removed a Record 72,955 Illegal Immigrants in 2008

By Ray Stern

The Phoenix office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was expecting a record year of deportations in 2008, but the final numbers exceeded predictions.

A news release just put out by ICE states the agency removed 72,955 illegal immigrants in its fiscal 2008, which ended in September, compared to 44,376 removed the previous year.

Stepped-up efforts by ICE's little-known Detention and Removal Operations division, combined with a program to deport illegal immigrants straight from the Maricopa County Jail made the new record possible, as reported in a New Times feature article last month. New police policies are likely to keep those numbers growing in coming months, as the article detailed.

ICE's full news release follows:

ICE reports record number of deportations from Arizona Local partnerships increase focus on identifying, removing criminal aliens

PHOENIX – Building on programs targeted at removing criminal aliens and strengthening partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Arizona announced a record number of deportations from the state in 2008.

During fiscal year 2008 (October 2007 to September 2008), the Phoenix Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) removed 72,955 illegal aliens from Arizona, compared to 44,376 removals the previous year.

“We made a commitment to the American people to embark on an ambitious enforcement strategy aimed at securing our borders and strengthening our nation’s immigration system,” said Julie L. Myers, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE. “The record results seen across the country reflect significant, steady progress toward this goal. The men and women at ICE, along with our law enforcement partners, deserve our thanks for their hard work and dedication.”

ICE attributes the significant increase in alien removals from Arizona to the success of the agency’s Criminal Alien Program (CAP) and the extension of federal immigration authority this year to additional state and local jail enforcement officers under the 287(g) program.

For example, as part of a 287(g) agreement reached last year with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), ICE and MCSO set up a joint CAP at Maricopa County’s inmate intake facility. Under that program, MCSO personnel and ICE officers check the immigration status of every foreign born individual who is arrested in the county and booked into the facility. In 2008, more than 12,000 potentially deportable aliens were identified at MCSO’s intake facility as a result of the program. A similar partnership with the Arizona Department of Corrections resulted in the identification of more than 2,500 potentially deportable foreign-born criminals in Arizona’s state prisons last year. Last year in Arizona, federally cross-trained local officers lodged nearly 16,000 immigration detainers against people believed to be in the country illegally, more than any state in the nation.

“Our 287(g) agreement with ICE is both a successful partnership and a crime reduction program. Alone, approximately 18,000 undocumented aliens have been detected in Maricopa County jails and processed for ICE removal. We look forward to continuing our partnership with ICE,” said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Outside of the 287(g) program, DRO officers in CAP identified and processed more than 7,000 illegal aliens in Arizona county and city jails for removal. ICE began CAP in June 2007 to identify criminal aliens in federal, state and local jails and prisons and target them for removal.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.