WASHINGTON – U.S. immigration agencies say anti-terrorism is their primary mission, but they tried to deport only 12 people on terrorism-related charges from 2004 through 2006, according to a private research study released Sunday.
That group of 12 represents a tiny fraction of the 814,073 people the government tried to remove from the country during those three years. Because no one knows how many terrorists are in the United States or tried to get in, there is no way to say whether the figure of 12 is too low, too high or about right.
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the study failed to appreciate enforcement totals.
“They seem not to grasp that immigration laws are a powerful authority in preventing security risks from setting foot on our soil,” Knocke said.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a private research group at Syracuse University, analyzed the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies
The clearinghouse also found that a separate, broader category of national security charges were brought to try to deport an additional 114 people. Criminal charges such as human trafficking and drug dealing were used against 106,878, or 13 percent of those the government tried to deport.
The overwhelming majority of deportation cases – 86.5 percent – were based on violations such as sneaking past border inspections, not having a valid visa or overstaying a student visa, the clearinghouse said.