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Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 2:59am

Deportations Decrease, Fueling Hope And Anger

Deportations of illegal immigrants from the three-state region around Georgia are at their lowest level since the start of the Obama administration.

The numbers come as immigration supporters are pressuring the President to stop deportations.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau released numbers last month that show the agency sent 14,000 immigrants back to their home countries from Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina last year.

That's 5,000 fewer than the year before.

Fr. Pablo Migone of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Augusta helps foreign nationals with immigration issues.

He says the administration is sparing workers and families while focusing on criminals and serious offenders.

"I have noticed in my own experience that less people are being deported," Migone says. "Yet the reality still remains for the immigrants that are here illegally that there's a constant fear that their presence here at any moment can disappear."

A member of the Georgia Immigration Review Board calls the decrease "disturbing."

The panel member, Phil Kent of Americans for Immigration Control, says the decline is politically-motivated.

"Interior enforcement of the immigration laws has virtually stopped," Kent says. "That's why with this trend you've seen states like Georgia trying to have tougher immigration laws."

The regional decline in deportations is consistent with national numbers.

Obama administration officials say they're prioritizing removing criminals and recent border-crossers.