PHOENIX -- The United States deported a record 409,849 immigrants in fiscal year 2012, up from 396,906 last year.
Under the Obama administration, deportation numbers have risen every year.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced the latest numbers late Friday, along with a new policy to focus deportation resources on serious criminals.
This past fiscal year, 55 percent of those who were deported had either felony or misdemeanor convictions, according to ICE.
As part of a stated effort to further target serious criminals, ICE director John Morton announced a new policy that will impact which non-citizens who are arrested by local police for other crimes can be turned over to ICE.
ICE officers issue detainers when a suspected unauthorized immigrant is booked into a local jail after an arrest for a criminal offense.
Immigrants with detainers are held up to 48 hours after their criminal case is over, so that ICE officers can take them into their custody, and in many cases, begin deportation proceedings.
The new policy outlines a list of requirements for issuing detainers. ICE officers can issue a detainer when immigrants have a criminal record, have been deported before, have been accused of a felony. Detainers can also be issued for immigrants who have been charged with misdemeanor offenses that relate to a specific list of crimes, including sexual abuse, drunk driving, or drug dealing, among others.
That means immigrants without a criminal history who are booked into jail for a traffic violation or a petty crime would no longer wind up in ICE custody.
According to the ICE press release, the new policy helps to ensure that "available resources are focused on apprehending felons, repeat offenders and other ICE priorities."
The change came after a growing number of law enforcement and government leaders began to question the use of ICE detainers for low certain offenders.
Earlier this month, California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a memo stating that law enforcement officers in her state did not have to comply with ICE detainers, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said he would not honor detainers for low level offenders.
Of those deported this past year, more than half were processed through the San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and San Antonio field offices.