In First for Obama, Deportations Drop ICE says focus on criminals has brought numbers down By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted Dec 27, 2013 10:42 AM CST 20 comments Comments This image provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shows Pedro Pimentel Rios being led to a government-chartered plane to Guatemala at an ICE airport in Mesa, Ariz., July 12, 2011. (AP Photo/ICE) (Newser) – Immigration officials sent 368,644 people packing in the last fiscal year, a 10% drop from the record 409,849 deported in 2012, the government announced last week. It's the lowest figure ever recorded under President Obama, who has seen deportations rise every year he's been in office, according to the Arizona Republic. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement says it's been deporting fewer people because it's focusing on the more labor-intense task of kicking out serious criminals, and because it's been catching more Central American border crossers, who take longer to deport than Mexicans. ICE says that 98% of those 368,644 were either criminals, had just crossed the border, or were repeat immigration violators. But immigration hawks say criminals should actually be easier to deport, and think Obama is purposely directing the agency to deport less. Immigration advocates, meanwhile, say the deportations are still tearing families apart—the New York Times last weekend ran a piece on the issue, highlighting one case of a man being hauled away from his girlfriend and the children he had helped raise as part of street sweeps in New Orleans. Obama administration officials told the paper that their hands are in part tied by a Congressional requirement that it detain at least 30,000 people a day.