An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent walks down the aisle of charter jet for deportation in the air between Chicago. and Harlingen, Texas.

AP Photo/LM Otero

Deportations based on terrorism or national security grounds became even rarer in the decade after Sept. 11, 2001, shows a new report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

There were 88 deportations involving terrorism charges in the decade prior to Sept. 11, 2001, the report shows. In the 10 years after the terrorist attack, there were 37 such cases.

The number of deportations based on “national security” grounds barely changed in the decade before and after the attacks. There were 384 such removals in the decade before Sept. 11, 2001, compared to 360 in the decade after, the report from the organization commonly known as TRAC found.

Based on a case-by-case analysis of 20 years of deportation proceedings initiated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and it's predecessor agency, Immigration and Naturalization Services, TRAC concluded that the repeated assertion from senior officials within the Department of Homeland Security that the primary enforcement mission is to deport terrorists, national security threats and serious criminals is "misleading."

Total deportations increased from 1.6 million in the decade prior to Sept. 11, 2001, to 2.3 million in the decade after but the number of deported criminals, national security threats and terrorists actually declined both in number and as a percentage of all deportations, the report found.

The number of criminals deported fell from 358,809 in the decade before Sept. 11, 2001, to 345,543 in the decade after. Taken as a percentage, the drop was even steeper: from 22 percent of all deportations in the pre-Sept. 11, 2001 decade to 15 percent in the decade after.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency within Homeland Security, defended its strategies and practices.

“Over the past two years, this Administration has implemented common sense immigration enforcement policies,” wrote spokesman Vincent Picard in an email. “These policies do not focus agency resources solely on criminal aliens and terrorists, they also prioritize the arrests of recent border entrants, repeat immigration violators, fugitive aliens and those who game the immigration system.”

Picard provided statistics that show that in fiscal year 2010, half of the people removed from the country — more than 195,000 — were convicted criminals. That accounted for a 70-percent increase from the 81,000 convicted criminals removed in fiscal year 2008, Picard said.