WASHINGTON - Filipinos who are illegally working in the United States have renewed fears as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expands its program to arrest illegal immigrants. A new report said that about 47,000 people have been removed or deported from the United States through the government's Secure Communities program.
The Associated Press said this week about one-quarter of those deported out of the country did not have criminal records, according to government data obtained by immigration advocacy groups that have filed a lawsuit.
A spokesman for immigration told the AP the non-criminals who were deported may have committed other offenses, such as crossing the border illegally or refusing to show up for deportation hearings.
Immigration agents complained that they lack the resources to detain and house illegal immigrants. The agency's records show that it can deport about 400,000 illegal immigrants per year.
But there is a big backlog on immigration cases and hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants are waiting for their cases to be heard in court.
With a 459-day average waiting time before cases are heard by a federal judge, nearly 248,000 cases were pending by mid-June, and these cases have impacted immigrants.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency expects the number of deportations to increase by 10 percent above Bush's 2008 total – and 25 percent above the 2007 total. But this number would be far higher were it not for the record number of immigrants who remain in legal purgatory, as there's an unprecedented backlog of deportation and asylum cases that have yet to be heard.
In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are stuck in limbo. Some are being held in detention centers, and others are being monitored at large while waiting for their deportations or cases to be heard.
The American Bar Association urged for an overhaul of the immigration courts system, which they said leaves judges "overworked and frustrated."
President Obama has increased agents patrolling the border as he backs that comprehensive immigration reform is needed to fix the dysfunctional system.