U.S. deports 50,000 Nigerians

Posted by admin on Mar 22nd, 2008

By Chinedu Offor, Correspondent, Washington DC. Daily Independent.

Up to 50,000 Nigerians are among a record number of illegal immigrants deported by the United States in a new push by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enforce immigration laws.  The DHS, which described it as a “strict policy of arresting, prosecuting, and jailing” illegal immigrants, deported more than 280,000 in fiscal year 2007, compared with 186,000 in 2006.  Immigration officials said it was the largest number of illegal immigrants ever removed from the country in a single year.

Law enforcement authorities attributed the increase to a revised apprehension process, as the DHS no longer targets only criminal illegal immigrants for removal, but seeks to apprehend, charge, and deport all those who enter the U.S. without authorisation.

The DHS has also launched “Operation Streamline” on the U.S.-Mexico border, which brings illegal immigrants into the American criminal justice system, through which they are prosecuted either for misdemeanor on their first offence or felony if they had been caught previously.

The operation has toughened penalties on airlines from Nigeria and other African countries that ferry illegal immigrants to the U.S.

“Under this programme, individuals who are caught at certain designated high-traffic, high-risk zones are prosecuted and, if convicted, are jailed,” Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff said.

Chertoff narrated that between October and December last year, the Justice Department prosecuted 10,200 cases and, as a consequence, apprehension rates dropped nearly 70 percent in those areas.

“When people who cross the border illegally are brought to face the reality that they are committing a crime, even if it is just a misdemeanor, that has a huge impact on their willingness to try again, and on the willingness of others to break the law coming across the border.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Spokeswoman, Ernestine Fobbs, said the agency’s Office of Detention and Removal Operations deported to 195 countries a total 280,523 illegal immigrants during fiscal 2007 which ended September 30.

Through February 18 of fiscal 2008, she said, the agency has removed 94,237 illegal immigrants.

During fiscal 2007, a total 136,712 Mexicans were returned home – 67,793 of them identified as criminals.

Despite the praise it has received from members of Congress, however, Operation Streamline is not without its drawbacks, and its expansion is in doubt without a significant increase in federal funding.

The U.S. Marshals Service which sends back illegal immigrants is strapped for both finance and manpower.

Besides, the Justice Department, asked to prosecute newly charged illegal immigrants, lacks the manpower to get the job done.

Congress appropriated $22 million to hire additional prosecutors, support staff and Deputy U.S. Marshals, and the government is seeking $100 million for the Southwest Border Enforcement Initiative to hire more people to support increased prosecutions.

Law enforcement officials also point to a lack of detention space as a critical concern, noting that border detention facilities are over stretched by rising drug, sex, and violent crimes.

“The sheer number of prisoners” on the border “makes finding sufficient detention space on a daily basis particularly challenging,” an internal report by the Marshals Service in January said.

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