WASHINGTON, April 5 (UPI) -- More than one in five of the people deported from the United States in the first half of 2011 were parents of U.S.-born children, government statistics show.
Figures released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement during that period show that 46,486 people deported during that period had children who could claim U.S. citizenship because of their place of birth, The Arizona Republic reported. Another 21,860 were ordered deported, but the government is unsure whether they have left.
The total number of deportations was 211,167 with the parents representing 22 percent of the total.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the Obama administration has focused on deporting illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes. According to ICE statistics, 74 percent of the deported parents were criminals, 13 percent people who had returned after being deported and 4 percent fugitives who evaded deportation orders.
"We made a big point of putting some real law-enforcement priorities into ICE so that their focus is on those with criminal convictions, repeat offenders, fugitives and those we pick up right at the border before they've had an opportunity to get into the interior of the country," Napolitano said.
Critics have said President Obama wants to use the issue of illegal residents who have citizen children to create a path to citizenship for their parents.