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As Feds Target Criminals, More Illegal Migrants Receive A Reprieve

Immigration judges are letting more illegal migrants stay in the country. Government records show that the Obama Administration is focusing its deportation efforts on those who have been convicted of crimes.

Most people who show up in front of an immigration judge still face deportation, but the Department of Homeland Security, and judges in Arizona, have doubled the number of cases where deportation orders are dropped compared to five years ago.

According to records from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, in the past fiscal year, nearly ten percent of all cases heard in Arizona were dismissed or the illegal migrant was given some sort of reprieve. In 2005, only four percent of cases were turned away.

John Messing, an immigration lawyer in Tucson, said most of those were people whose only crime was crossing the border.

"The Obama Administration is very clearly focusing its efforts on removing criminal aliens as a priority, whereas in previous years, it was just a kind of general mix of people, regardless of their prior record," he said.

Records show the same pattern is happening across the country. According to a Syracuse University database, nearly a quarter of the 229,000 people who wound up in immigration court had their cases terminated or dismissed.

That's up about 5 percent from last year.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.