Update: When published, this article incorrectly reported that aliens in the US face deportation for even a single marijuana possession misdemeanor. No, it takes two misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses to do that. We have modified the article accordingly.
The United States last year deported more than 128,000 foreigners for committing crimes in the US, with people convicted of drug offenses making up nearly one-third of the total, according to a Department of Homeland Security report released last week. Some 37,000 foreign nationals were deported for drug offenses in fiscal year 2009, the report found, or 29.6% of all those deported under the criminal alien removal program.
The number of people deported for drug offenses was nearly double the second and third place offense categories. More than 20,000 people were deported for traffic violations and more than 19,000 were deported for immigration offenses.
Persons convicted of what are commonly considered serious crimes (assault, larceny, burglary, robbery, fraud, sexual assault) made up only 20.7% of those deported. "Family offenses" accounted for another 2%, while the category "other" included 16.5%.
Overall deportations are down from last year, with 290,000 people being removed by July 22, the agency reported. At the same time last year, 322,000 had been deported. But the percentage of people deported for committing crimes is up to nearly 50% this year, compared to 30% for the same period last year.
The Obama administration's push against criminal immigrants has been criticized both by advocates of tougher immigration policies, who applaud the crackdown on criminals but want to see it extended to non-criminal aliens, and by immigration rights activists for deporting more people than the Bush administration and deporting people, including some who have spent their entire lives here, for minor criminal offenses.