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WASHINGTON – The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has released figures showing the number of people deported from the United States to the Caribbean and other countries, underscoring the Obama administration's focus on removing convicted criminals and others that fall into priority areas for enforcement. ICE director John Morton while not giving any specific numbers for the Caribbean, said overall, ICE's Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations had removed 409 849 individuals from the United States. He said about 55 per cent, or 225 390 of the people removed, were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, almost double the removal of criminals in 2008. Morton announced a new national detainer guidance that limits the use of detainers to individuals who meet the department's enforcement priorities and restricts detainers against individuals arrested for minor misdemeanor offenses, such as traffic offenses and other petty crimes. He said the new guidance helps to ensure that available resources are focused on apprehending felons, repeat offenders and other ICE priorities. “Smart and effective immigration enforcement relies on setting priorities for removal and executing on those priorities. In order to further enhance our ability to focus enforcement efforts on serious offenders, we are changing who ICE will issue detainers against.” Morton said that while 2012 removals indicate that the agency continues to make progress in focusing resources on criminal and priority aliens “we are constantly looking for ways to ensure that we are doing everything we can to utilize our resources in a way that maximizes public safety”. He said Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano has directed ICE to focus its resources on key priorities in all aspects of its immigration enforcement efforts.