Immigrants With No Criminal Record Are Now Being Arrested At Twice the Rate


Under the Trump administration, immigration enforcement has become increasingly unfocused. Rather than prioritizing the apprehension and removal of immigrants who have committed serious crimes, enforcement personnel are now scooping up anyone who is deportable for any reason. This lack of prioritization has translated into a surge in immigration-related arrests across the board.

The jump in arrests is apparent in new data provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the Washington Post. According to the ICE data, 21,362 immigrants were arrested from January through mid-March, compared to 16,104 during the same period last year. While most had some type of criminal conviction (including minor, non-violent offenses) the number with no criminal records more than doubled to 5,441. The number of non-criminal arrestees has doubled or tripled since last year at field offices in New York, Boston, and elsewhere. The ICE office in Atlanta arrested the greatest number of immigrants with clean records: nearly 700, up from 137 the previous year. Philadelphia had the biggest percentage increase, with 356—more than six times greater than the year before.

In addition to being inhumane, spending limited law-enforcement resources on tracking down and detaining immigrants without criminal records is irrational. The top priority should be finding individuals who pose a threat to public safety or national security. Unauthorized border-crossers who simply work and raise families are not a threat and therefore should be nowhere near the top of the list. In fact, they shouldn’t even be on the list. Giving them a chance to earn legal status, thereby maximizing their contributions to the U.S. economy and facilitating their integration into U.S. society, is far more practical and compassionate than hunting them down as if they were dangerous criminals.

Moreover, the task of finding dangerous criminals (native-born and foreign-born alike) is made more difficult when immigrant communities feel besieged by federal immigration-enforcement authorities. Immigrants who are undocumented, or have family members who are undocumented, tend to be wary of the police for fear that interacting with any law-enforcement officer will draw the attention of ICE. Fewer crimes (including instances of sexual assault) are reported in communities where people are concerned about interacting with law enforcement due to the potential immigration consequences.

Without a rational and humane set of priorities to guide it, the Trump administration appears to give no consideration to how or why different immigrants come to this country, what kind of life they have lived since arriving, or how they have become connected to this country through family, community, and work. That’s not a “tough” enforcement policy; it’s just a poorly reasoned policy.

This post originally appeared on Immigration Impact. © 2017 Immigration Impact. All rights reserved.

About The Author

Walter Ewing Walter Ewing, Ph.D., is Senior Researcher at the American Immigration Council. In addition to authoring numerous reports for the Council, he has published articles in the Journal on Migration and Human Security, Society, the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, and the Stanford Law and Policy Review. He also authored a chapter in Debates on U.S. Immigration, published by SAGE in 2012. Mr. Ewing received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School in 1997. Follow him on Twitter @WalterAEwing.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.