The U.S. deported nearly 393,000 people in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, half of whom were considered criminals. Of those, 27,635 had been arrested for drunken driving, more than double the 10,851 deported after drunken driving arrests in 2008, the last full year of the Bush administration, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data provided to The Associated Press.
An additional 13,028 were deported last year after being arrested on less serious traffic law violations, nearly three times the 4,527 traffic offenders deported two years earlier, according to the data.
The spike in the numbers of people deported for traffic offenses as well as a 78 percent increase in people deported for immigration-related offenses renewed skepticism about the administration's claims that it is focusing on the most dangerous criminals.
Kumar Kibble, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deputy of immigration, said in some cases people picked up on traffic offenses are found to have committed other crimes. But ICE attempts to categorize each deported immigrant in its statistics based on the worst crime in the person's record. ICE says the statistics involve only people who have been convicted of a crime.
Some of the increase in deportations is due to a new system that identifies people on the basis of fingerprint records through the "Secure Communities" program, "now in place in more than 1,400 jurisdictions, up from 14 in 2008. It's expected to be in more than 3,000 jurisdictions nationally by 2013."
Secure Communities is the Homeland Security Department's system of identifying immigrants for deportation through fingerprints taken by local officers when booking people on criminal charges. The local law enforcement agencies routinely send the prints to the FBI for criminal background checks. The FBI shares the fingerprints with Homeland Security to look for potentially deportable immigrants, who can be in the country illegally or legally.