Report: 80 percent of U.S. deportations involve minor offenses
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officer prepares an undocumented Salvadorian immigrant for a deportation flight on Dec. 8, 2010 in Mesa, Arizona [AFP]

The United States is mostly deporting undocumented immigrants who have committed only minor offenses or have no criminal record, despite President Barack Obama's promises to the contrary, the New York Times reported Monday.

The newspaper said it found that only 20 percent of the two million people deported since Obama took office in January 2009 were involved in major crimes like drug trafficking.

Obama, whose quest for comprehensive immigration reform has run aground in the Congress, has assured Hispanics that his government was going after "criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families."

But the Times said its analysis of records of more than 3.2 million deportation cases over the past decade showed that deportations actually increased under Obama.

Moreover, two thirds "involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal records at all," it said.

It found that deportations of people who only had traffic violations quadrupled in Obama's first five years in office, over George W. Bush's last five years as president -- 193,000 over 43,000.

The Times also discovered that in 2013 immigration charges were filed in 90 percent of deportation cases involving people with no prior criminal records.

For those deportees, it means they face up to a year in prison if they return to the United States within five years.

Faced with growing criticism, Obama last month announced a review of his administration's deportation policies to see if there was a "more human" approach.

He blamed Congress for the high number of deportations, claiming he had no option but to apply the law as long as the legislature failed to approve comprehensive immigration reform.

The US Senate last year approved an ambitious reform bill that offers a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The bill also provides for strengthened border controls and a complete overhaul of the US system for issuing visas, among other initiatives.

But the bill is stalled in the House of Representatives, and analysts agree that it is unlikely to come to a vote before mid-term elections in November.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]