MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The Obama administration is deporting historic numbers of undocumented immigrants, including here in the Mid-South. Of the 15,000 deported so far this year in the Mid-South, more than 9,000 were convicted of crimes. That's nearly 2,000 more than last year.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is cracking down on serious crimes committed by immigrants. ICE says some of those serious crimes include murder, rape, and drug trafficking. An immigration lawyer, Webb Brewer, told abc24.com not every undocumented immigrant is guilty of those crimes.
The "Fugitive Operations Teams" created by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement three years ago are helping with deportation efforts in the Mid-South. In 2010, 7,451 convicted criminals were deported from Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. This year, 9,249 were deported.
Webb Brewer is happy with those deportations but wants to see how many undocumented immigrants are victims of crimes. He says the majority of immigrants are not criminals.
"They came here looking for a better life like so many of our ancestors did. They contribute both in providing services and things of that sort and they pay taxes and I think that's really, really misunderstood,” Brewer said.
Brewer believes immigrants are targeted in the Mid-South. Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich thinks otherwise.
"We focus on the crime and the criminal and if someone is here illegally that may be something we may be aware of during a course of a case. That's not usually immediately transparent when an arrest is made,” said Weirich.
ICE told ABC 24 News in a statement that their focus is on “serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, not sweeps or raids to target undocumented immigrants indiscriminately."
The total number of undocumented immigrants deported from the Mid-South this year is 15,363.
Facing pressure from immigration advocates, the Obama administration pledged on Friday, December 2, 2011, to ease the deportation of illegal immigrants who don't have criminal records. A White House statement says existing deportation cases involving non-criminal illegals will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.