ICE’s impact is felt in communities across the country, but not seen in their official paperwork. Photo ICE, Courtesy

Over 350 thousand immigrants were deported last year from the United States, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The number was released last December and refers to the Fiscal Year 2013, which ended on Sept. 30.

ICE has stated that the department has prioritized its resources on the removal of immigrants who have a criminal record in the country and those caught at the border while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States. From the total of 368,644 removals, only 133,551 of them were individuals detained in the interior of the United States, and they say 82 percent of these immigrants had been previously convicted of a crime.

However, Wilson Purves, an immigration lawyer based in San Francisco, believes the ICE statement doesn’t reflect reality, as people with no criminal background are still being deported.

“I have heard about so many cases where immigrants were removed from the country for apparently no reason,” said Purves. “Some have gotten pulled over only because they looked like Hispanic.”

The leading countries of origin for those deported last year were Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Purves believes that the U.S. government has been profiting off of these deportations.“They know most of these people don’t have any criminal background.

On the other hand, they also know they don’t have a driver’s license, for example. They get arrested (and must pay) all sorts of fines and (are) automatically sent to the immigration department, which will make them pay. It’s a money machine for the government,” Purves said.

After witnessing the separation of many families, especially during the last five years, Purves is currently seeing a more positive scenario, at least for immigrants living in California. The state has passed the California Trust Act, a piece of legislation that prevents police from sharing information about detainees with the ICE, unless they had been previously convicted of a crime. “I believe we are going to experience a more fair situation from now on,” said Purves, affirming that the highest number of immigrant arrests occuring in the Bay Area are currently in Sonoma, Napa County, Livermore, and Sacramento.

The California Trust Act may be helpful, but an immigration reform is still a “redemption” that many immigrants all over the country are hoping for.

“It would be ideal to have these immigrants under a different temporary status to buy them some time to apply for their green cards and, or regulate their situation,” said Purves.