A new report shows that fewer immigrants are being deported from Massachusetts and the nation even though more illegal immigrants than ever are being identified by Secure Communities.
"(Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is finding out about far more non-citizens who are getting arrested for crimes than ever before but they're actually arresting and removing fewer of them,' said the report's author, Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group which favors stricter enforcement of immigration laws.
Vaughan did her research from documents leaked to her as well as records produced as part of a lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She attributes the reduced enforcement to the Obama Administration's policy of prosecutorial discretion, which tells ICE agents not to deport certain groups of aliens.
"They're telling them not to arrest minor criminals, not to arrest people who are caregivers or parents, not to arrest people who are related to US citizens, not to arrest people who have been here a long time," Vaughan told FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet. "It's essentially a form of amnesty for large groups of people who are here illegally and haven't been given relief by Congress."
But the report's findings are being questioned by some.
"The truth of the matter is under the current administration, the number of deportations has been significant, the largest number in history," said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "Two million people being deported and the study refers to numbers that have no citation. The author refers to her own work without having the citation so, I'm not really sure if this qualifies for a study or is it just the reinforcement of the Center for Immigration Studies point of view?"
ICE is finding more non-citizens than ever before thanks largely to Secure Communities, a federal program that compares the fingerprints of everyone arrested with immigration databases. It went active statewide in Massachusetts in May 2012 over the objection of Gov. Deval Patrick and a number of activists and others who say the program encourages local police to profile immigrants.
Vaughan's research shows that Secure Communities is identifying more non-citizens -- the great majority of whom are likely illegal immigrants -- than ever before but that ICE is pursuing deportation at a far lesser rate.
For example, in Massachusetts there were 1,096 "hits," or non-citizens identified and 1,846 arrests or requests for deportations issued. This year, Vaughan predicts there will be 7,883 identifications but only 1,522 arrests or requests for deportations issued.
"They're simply doing less with more," Vaughan said.
ICE has said they want to focus on deporting convicted criminals they find, but Vaughan says the number of people being deported who are convicted criminals is also down.
"As it turns out they're removing fewer criminal aliens than ever before too," she said.
"So is this all a joke?" Beaudet asked her.
"There's no question that the enforcement of our immigration laws at the street level is being undermined by our policies that are implemented at ICE headquarters," Vaughan said.
An ICE spokesman responded in a statement that the bureau is prioritizing their limited resources.
"ICE has been vocal about the shift in our immigration enforcement strategy to focus on convicted criminals, public safety and border security and our removal numbers illustrate this," the statement said.