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Despite Tough Talk on Criminals, ICE is Rapidly Increasing Arrests and Deportations of Non-Criminals While Arrests and Deportations of Criminals Remain Relatively Stagnant and May Be Decreasing

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Despite tough talk on criminals, ICE under the Trump administration has ramped up arrests and deportations of non-criminals, but barely increased the arrest and deportation of criminals.  Comparing ICE arrest data from October 2016 through June 2017 and the same period one year later (October 2017 through June 2018) the Associated Press (AP) found that “ICE arrests of noncriminals increased 66 percent” and arrests of criminals barely increased by nearly “2 percent.”  Comparing ICE deportation data from fiscal years 2016 and 2017, AP found “there was a 174 percent increase [in 2017]…of those with no criminal convictions. Deportations of those with convictions rose nearly 13 percent over the same period.”  

AP’s review of ICE data is consistent with a review by NBC News last month that examined a different time period.  NBC compared data from the last 14 months of the Obama administration to the first 14 months of the Trump administration and found a 203 percent increase in ICE arrests of non-criminals under Trump as compared to Obama.  Also similar to AP’s findings, NBC found “that arrests of undocumented immigrants with criminal records grew just 18 percent.”

Moreover, when ICE does deport criminals, the crimes are often for “lesser infractions,” many of them for misdemeanor illegal entry or re-entry or traffic offenses, not serious or violent crimes.  According to an AP review of ICE data obtained by the Transactional Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (TRAC), of “more than 220,000 deportees in the 2017 fiscal year, 79,270 had no convictions….” and “1 in 4” of those deported with criminal records were convicted of illegal entry or re-entry, “the first- and third-most common charges among deportees.”  “Traffic offense” was the fifth most common crime committed by those deported with criminal records.

Furthermore, NBC found that this trend has and will continue for non-criminal arrests while criminal arrests will decrease:  “From the seven months ended March 31, the most recent period for which numbers are available, ICE arrested 16 percent more non-criminals than in the seven months from Feb. 1, 2017 to Aug. 31, 2017, while arresting nine percent fewer criminals.”

Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said:  “Tough talk on criminals should not obscure the reality of an irrational ICE policy that has no priorities.  Early in his presidency, Trump issued an executive order to eliminate common sense priorities that had ICE  focus on criminals, not long-term residents and families of U.S. citizens with no criminal record. ICE has aggressively implemented this “everyone is a target” strategy. More than a year and a half later, we now have the data that clearly shows us what an irrational policy of no priorities looks like — drastic increases in deportation of non-criminals and what now appears to be decreasing deportations of criminals.  It’s time to bring back common sense immigration policy and priorities that, like every professional law enforcement agency in the country, focuses resources on public safety threats, not ordinary immigrants with deep roots and U.S. citizen children.”