News & Politics

Immigration arrests soar under Trump; sharpest spike seen for noncriminals


President Trump addresses the graduating class of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy during commencement ceremonies in New London, Conn., on Wednesday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
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Federal immigration agents are arresting more than 400 immigrants a day, a sharp leap from last year that reflects one of President Trump’s most far-reaching campaign promises.

In Trump’s first 100 days in office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 41,318 immigrants, up 37.6 percent over the same period last year, the agency said Wednesday.

Almost 3 out of 4 of those arrested have criminal records, including gang members and fugitives wanted for murder. But the biggest increase by far is among immigrants with no criminal records.

“This administration is fully implementing its mass-deportation agenda,” said Gregory Chen, government relations director for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “They’re going after people who have lived here for a long time.”

ICE’s announcement showcased one of the Trump administration’s few victories on immigration this year, after federal judges halted parts of his entry ban and sanctuary-city crackdown, and Congress refused his initial requests to fund a border wall.

Advocates for undocumented immigrants say the numbers will add to the fears of longtime and otherwise law-abiding residents who felt spared from deportation under the Obama administration.

Days after Trump took office, he issued an executive order that made clear that anyone in the United States illegally could be deported and ended former president Barack Obama’s policy of frequently granting reprieves from deportation to undocumented immigrants with clean criminal records or U.S.-born children.

Acting ICE director Thomas Homan said the statistics released Wednesday show that agents still prioritize lawbreakers: 30,473 criminals were arrested from Jan. 22 to April 29, an 18 percent increase from the same period in 2016. Meanwhile, arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to nearly 11,000, the fastest-growing category by far.

“Will the number of noncriminal arrests and removals increase this year? Absolutely,” Homan said. “That’s enforcing the laws that are on the books.” What is less clear is what is happening to the immigrants who are being taken into custody.

Overall, deportations have fallen about 12 percent this year, to about 56,315 people, which Homan attributed to a severe backlog in federal immigration courts. He also said it can take longer to deport criminals than those without criminal records, because those in the former category may have additional court proceedings.

The Trump administration has called for additional immigration judges and detention space to speed deportations. Homan did not say how many of the 41,318 people whose arrests were announced Wednesday have been deported, remain in custody or have been released.

Unlike criminal arrests, records of immigration arrests  w-hich are considered civil violations-re not publicly accessible. The secrecy allows immigration officials to pick and choose which examples of their work to highlight.

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