ATLANTA (AP) -- The number of deportations from Georgia and the Carolinas has dropped over the past three years, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement records.
ICE officials in Atlanta, who are responsible for the region, ordered about 14,740 removals in fiscal year 2013, which ended in September, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://bit.ly/1epPB4P ) reported Sunday. The number of removals is down from 2011, when nearly 23,000 people were deported.
Federal officials have reported more deportations from border states, and the percentage of deportations involving criminals increased to 59 percent in 2013 from 55 percent in 2012, according to ICE records.
The Obama administration in 2011 announced it was shifting focus to deporting recent border crossers, serious criminals and people who posed threats to national security.
Data on the number of people who have been deported has garnered criticism from advocates on both sides of the issue.
The Center for Immigration Studies pushes for stricter immigration guidelines. The organization's Director of Policy Studies, Jessica Vaughan, said that a recent Pew Research Center report estimates that the number people living in America without legal permission grew to nearly 11.7 million between 2011 and 2012.
"The metric that counts in terms of measuring our effectiveness in addressing illegal immigration is the size of the illegal population," Vaughan said.
Frank Sharry, founder of immigrant rights organization America's Voice, said despite the increase in the percentage of criminals being deported, the federal government is still removing too many people who have no criminal history. According to federal records, more than, 151,800 people with no criminal history were deported in the last fiscal year.
"It just galls us that you have deportation machinery that seems to be driven by quotas and politics, not by sound law enforcement prioritization," Sharry said.