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Like just about everything emanating from the Trump Administration these days, the new statistics from ICE documenting immigration enforcement during the first 100 days of the Administration merit a healthy dose of skepticism.
Acting ICE director Thomas Homan convened a call yesterday with reporters to tout the fact that arrests of undocumented immigrants are up 38% from the same period a year ago, and totaled 41,300. This is how Aria Bendix of The Atlantic Monthly summarized it:
According to Wednesday’s report, nearly 75 percent of undocumented immigrants arrested between January 22 and April 29 are convicted criminals, marking a 20 percent increase in these types of arrests since 2016. Just 2,700 of these convictions were for violent crimes, including homicide, rape, kidnapping, and assault. Meanwhile, arrests of undocumented immigrants whose only crime is living illegally in the U.S. have risen by an even greater margin. Between January 22 and April 29, ICE conducted around 10,800 “non-criminal arrests,” compared to just 4,200 in 2016—an increase of more than 150 percent.
Got that? Homan claims 75% of those arrested are convicted criminals. But wait, only 6.5% (2,700 out of 41,300) have convictions for violent crimes. Plus, the fastest growing category of arrests are those with no convictions, which have more than doubled. Doesn’t that mean that 26% of those arrested have no criminal record and perhaps as many as 90% aren’t serious criminals? How many have convictions for driving without a license, for using a fake document to get a job, for re-entering the country to rejoin family?
We just don’t know. As Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post writes:
Unlike criminal arrests, records of immigration arrests — which are considered civil violations — are not publicly accessible. The secrecy allows immigration officials to pick and choose which examples of their work to highlight.
No kidding. ICE lifted up a few horrific cases, including gang members wanted for homicide either here or in their country of origin. But what about ICE’s claim that they are prioritizing the “bad hombres” that Trump likes to talk about?
Here’s our take: ICE is throwing sand in our faces. They got the headlines they wanted today, which stated that arrests are up and most of those arrested were “convicted criminals.” But we know of way too many cases that put the lie to the ICE public relations strategy. Mothers, fathers, workers, caregivers, DACA recipients, and more are being arrested on a daily basis. Their crime? Wanting to be with their family and work hard. ICE’s strategy isn’t about going after bad guys, it’s about going after everyone.
If, however, ICE were to be transparent (don’t hold your breath), or some brave DHS employee were to leak the information, or some powerful member of Congress was able to demand the information, we believe the actual data would undermine ICE’s narrative and expose what’s really happening.
We suspect that the vast majority of those arrested by ICE and defined as “convicted criminals” are people who are nothing close to being a public safety threat, and at most have traffic and immigration-related violations on their record. Here’s another prediction: ICE won’t release the data willingly, because they know that they are being disingenuous with the term “convicted criminal.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
We believe that ICE is misleading the public in a deliberate attempt to cover up the fact that their roundups and arrests of ordinary, hardworking immigrants greatly outnumber their arrests of serious criminals. This matters because virtually all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in America are, by the Trump Administration’s definition, considered ‘criminals.’ This is why we fear that the Trump Administration is not engaged in a serious effort to prioritize the use of law enforcement resources but is engaged in a serious effort to deport as many undocumented immigrants as they can arrest. Doing so is ripping families apart and causing millions to live in fear. And doing so may well catapult our nation towards an era in American history that we will regret for centuries.