Published: Aug 19, 2010 7:12 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 19, 2010 4:12 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Nearly a third of criminal immigrants removed from the U.S. last year had committed crimes involving "dangerous drugs", statistics released by the Homeland Security Department show.

Dangerous drug crimes include manufacturing, distribution, sale and possession of illegal drugs, the department said. Of the 128,345 criminal immigrants removed from the country, 37,993, or29.6 percent, were deported for dangerous drugs, according to the department.

Immigrants with traffic offenses ranked second, with 20,367, or about 16 percent, removed for those violations. Immigration violations such as entering the country illegally, immigrant smuggling and false claims to citizenship were a close third at 15.4 percent or 19,807.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it removed a total of nearly 390,000 people from the country in 2009. About 290,000 had been removed as of July 22, with nearly half considered criminals, the agency reported.

The Obama administration has made deporting immigrants who commit crimes a priority of its immigration enforcement policies, and Congress has tried to steer funding toward such arrests and deportations.

The strategy has drawn criticism from people and groups on both sides of the immigration issue. Those supporting tougher immigration laws say the administration should do more to apprehend people in the country illegally but who have not committed crimes.

Meanwhile, immigrant advocates criticize the White House for detaining and deporting more people than the Bush administration and sweeping in people who have committed minor offenses.

The list of leading crime categories was posted on the Homeland Security Department's website Wednesday.

The department also said reinstatements of removal orders - given to people who illegally re-enter the U.S. after a previous removal - accounted from 31 percent of all removals last year, up from 25 percent in 2008.