updated 10/6/2010 2:53:34 PM ET 2010-10-06T18:53:34

About half of the nearly 393,000 people removed from the country during the past year were criminals, according to Homeland Security Department statistics.

The 392,862 removals by Immigration and Customs Enforcement falls short of the agency's goal of 400,000 for the 2010 fiscal year, according to data obtained by The Associated Press. But it is just above the 2009 total of 389,834. About 35 percent of those immigrants were considered convicted criminals by the government.

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The department planned a Wednesday afternoon news conference to release the totals and other benchmarks just 28 days before November's midterm elections, in which Democrats are facing possible losses of their majorities in Congress. Some of the information was posted on a department blog in advance.

The agency arrested 197,090 noncriminal immigrants in the 2010 fiscal year, about 56,041 fewer than the previous year, according to statistics obtained by The AP.

In addition to the removals, ICE audited more than 3,200 employers, prohibited 225 companies and people from contracting with the government, and levied about $50 million in fines. The Obama administration has made cracking down on employers a key part of its immigration enforcement policies, emphasizing audits of companies more than the high-profile raids done during the Bush administration.

Congress has been pressuring Homeland Security to emphasize deporting and removing people dangerous to communities or who are threats to the country.

But the Obama administration has been criticized by immigration enforcement hawks who say it has eased up on illegal immigration enforcement. Immigration advocates, on the other hand, say the administration enforcement policies have hurt families and are as bad or worse than Bush administration policies for immigrants.

Associated Press writer Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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