Trump's ICE Increasingly Arresting Immigrants Without Criminal Convictions

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Elise Foley
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President Donald Trump has called for Congress to pass laws that would make it easier to detain and deport more immigrants.  (Photo: Olivier Douliery / Bloomberg / Getty Images)
President Donald Trump has called for Congress to pass laws that would make it easier to detain and deport more immigrants.  (Photo: Olivier Douliery / Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is arresting more immigrants, and increasingly they have not been convicted of crimes, according to data released on Thursday by the agency.

About two-thirds of those arrested by ICE from October 2017 to the end of March had no criminal convictions — up from 21 percent during the same period the year before and only 13 percent the year before that. ICE officials noted that some of the arrested immigrants had been charged with a crime but not convicted.

The new figures, which reflect the first two quarters of the 2018 fiscal year, demonstrate that ICE is carrying out the crackdown on unauthorized immigrants that President Donald Trump promised. That means ICE officers are picking up more people with clean records, even if they were previously allowed to remain in the country.

“If somebody has violated our immigration laws, they are priorities now,” Corey Price, the assistant director for enforcement at ICE, told reporters on a conference call, adding that in the final years of Barack Obama’s administration, the agency’s “scope was significantly narrowed.”

Immigrants in the U.S. without authorization or those who violate the terms of their visa are subject to deportation, regardless of whether they have a criminal record. (It is a civil violation, not a criminal one, to be in the U.S. without authorization.)

ICE arrested nearly 80,000 people from October to the end of March, compared with about 63,000 in the same period the year before. By comparison, the agency arrested about 54,000 people in the first half of the 2016 fiscal year, when Obama’s priority enforcement policies and instructed agents to focus on undocumented immigrants with criminal histories.

While ICE’s arrests were up, deportations were slightly down ― from about 126,000 in the first half of the 2017 fiscal year to about 117,000 in the same period in fiscal year 2018. For both periods, about 54 percent of those removed were convicted criminals.

While most deportations originated with arrests by Customs and Border Patrol, ICE’s share rose for the most recent period; ICE arrested 39 percent of the people deported, up 10 percentage points from the previous year.

Trump vowed as a candidate to take constraints off ICE and allow agents to have more discretion on whom to arrest. The president and his administration have taken steps to remove protections that allow more than 1 million people to stay in the U.S. ― which could expose more immigrants to risk of deportation.

He typically frames his immigration comments around crime. During a meeting at the White House with leaders from California on Wednesday, after a question about MS-13, a gang started in the U.S. by Salvadoran immigrants, he praised his administration for “taking people out of the country.”

“You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” Trump said. “These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”

April 2015

At an event hosted by Texas Patriots PAC: “Everything’s coming across the border: the illegals, the cars, the whole thing. It’s like a big mess. Blah. It’s like vomit.”
At an event hosted by Texas Patriots PAC: “Everything’s coming across the border: the illegals, the cars, the whole thing. It’s like a big mess. Blah. It’s like vomit.”

June 2015

At a speech announcing his campaign: "When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
At a speech announcing his campaign: "When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

August 2015

On NBC's "Meet the Press": “We’re going to keep the families together, we have to keep the families together, but they have to go." 
On NBC's "Meet the Press": “We’re going to keep the families together, we have to keep the families together, but they have to go." 

September 2015

On CBS's "60 Minutes": “We’re rounding ‘em up in a very humane way, in a very nice way. And they’re going to be happy because they want to be legalized. And, by the way, I know it doesn’t sound nice. But not everything is nice.”
On CBS's "60 Minutes": “We’re rounding ‘em up in a very humane way, in a very nice way. And they’re going to be happy because they want to be legalized. And, by the way, I know it doesn’t sound nice. But not everything is nice.”

November 2015

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe": “You are going to have a deportation force, and you are going to do it humanely." 
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe": “You are going to have a deportation force, and you are going to do it humanely." 

February 2016

At a GOP primary debate: “We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally. They will go out. They will come back ― some will come back, the best, through a process.”
At a GOP primary debate: “We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally. They will go out. They will come back ― some will come back, the best, through a process.”

March 2016

At a press conference when asked if he would consider allowing undocumented immigrants to stay: "We either have a country or we don’t. We either have a country or we don’t. We have borders or we don’t have borders. And at this moment, the answer is absolutely not.”
At a press conference when asked if he would consider allowing undocumented immigrants to stay: "We either have a country or we don’t. We either have a country or we don’t. We have borders or we don’t have borders. And at this moment, the answer is absolutely not.”

April 2016

At an event hosted by NBC's "Today Show": “They’re going to go, and we’re going to create a path where we can get them into this country legally, OK? But it has to be done legally. ... They’re going to go, and then come back and come back legally.”
At an event hosted by NBC's "Today Show": “They’re going to go, and we’re going to create a path where we can get them into this country legally, OK? But it has to be done legally. ... They’re going to go, and then come back and come back legally.”

July 2016

At the Republican National Convention: "Tonight, I want every American whose demands for immigration security have been denied ― and every politician who has denied them ― to listen very closely to the words I am about to say. On January 21st of 2017, the day after I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced."
At the Republican National Convention: "Tonight, I want every American whose demands for immigration security have been denied ― and every politician who has denied them ― to listen very closely to the words I am about to say. On January 21st of 2017, the day after I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced."

September 2016

At a rally: “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country.”
At a rally: “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country.”

September 2016

On "The Dr. Oz Show": “Well, under my plan the undocumented or, as you would say, illegal immigrant wouldn’t be in the country. They only come in the country legally.”
On "The Dr. Oz Show": “Well, under my plan the undocumented or, as you would say, illegal immigrant wouldn’t be in the country. They only come in the country legally.”

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.