BOSTON – Feeral officials say the number of immigrants jailed for deportation in New England plunged last year, despite the expansion of a program designed to identify people in the U.S. illegally.

Officials say detentions fell by almost 28 percent in New England, while nationally the number dropped 8 percent.

A total of 3,644 immigrants were jailed last fiscal year in the region, down from 5,042 the previous year.

Federal officials told The Boston Globe the figures reflect an effort to focus specifically on deporting recent border crossers and immigrants with criminal records.

Immigrant advocates hailed the shift.

Others say that the shift is perplexing because the federal government dramatically expanded the Secure Communities fingerprinting program last year in New England, increasing the ability to detect immigrants here illegally.