WASHINGTON — Concerned about falling short of congressional deportation targets, federal immigration officials last year beefed up efforts to remove thousands more illegal immigrants convicted of crimes.

Internal emails demonstrate how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement looked to communities in the Carolinas and Georgia, which have had some of the fastest-growing illegal immigrant populations in the country, in an almost desperate attempt to boost their numbers.

The email exchanges among officials are pleading in nature while emphasizing the need to meet removal targets. They illustrate how aggressively ICE leadership has focused on meeting removal targets that have annually broken records for the number of deportations, which the White House uses to tout its focus on criminal illegal immigrants.

Critics, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, charged that the tactics demonstrate a “quota” system that “breeds violations of constitutional rights” and promotes racial profiling.

Read more in Thursday’s Arizona Daily Star and at azstarnet.com