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The Obama administration claims to be enforcing immigration laws more wisely than the last administration did, by arresting and deporting the “worst of the worst” criminals. Apparently that list includes speeders and drunk drivers, too, since deportations for drunk driving have nearly doubled since 2008, while deportations for traffic offenses have almost tripled.
Drug offenses still account for the lion’s share of deportations, but the increase in deportations for drug crimes rose by only 8,950 cases, or 25 percent, from 2008 to 2010. Deportations for traffic offenses, which represent just 7 percent of all deportations, rose by 8,501 cases in the same period of time. Drunk driving deportations, 14 percent of total deportations, rose by 16,784 cases from 2008 to 2010.
Why the change? Local police departments are now more involved in immigration enforcement than ever before, thanks to new programs that encourage their participation.
One such program, called Secure Communities, has local law enforcement providing fingerprints to the FBI for criminal background checks, even on relatively minor offenses. The FBI shares the information with Homeland Security, which can often tell if a suspect is in the country illegally.
Those critical of the change accuse law enforcement of targeting traffic violators, instead of pursuing more serious criminals.
Supporters argue that many stopped for traffic offenses have also committed other crimes, and that drunk driving is looked at “in a very serious way right now.”
Don’t look for deportations to decrease any time soon, either: the Secure Communities program currently has 1,400 participants, up from just 14 in 2008. It’s expected to hit 3,000 participants by 2013.