In the past years, the general consensus in immigration policy has been to focus deportation resources and efforts on undocumented immigrants with a criminal record, gang members and national security threats. The current administration’s most recent figures, however, are showing a very different trend. According to research data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, as of June 30, 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) held in custody 44,435 individuals, the vast majority of which had no criminal record at all. Even more surprisingly, the data shows that four out of five individuals detained by ICE had a clean record or only committed a minor offense (i.e. a traffic violation). This means that only one ICE detainee out of five had been convicted of an offense that ICE classified as a “felony”. Notably, only 16 percent of these “felonies” were what ICE defines a “Level 1” (meaning a serious) offense. Additionally, among Level 1 offenses, ICE includes crimes such as “selling marijuana”, which many states have now legalized. Furthermore, for convicted ICE detainees, the most frequent crime was “illegal entry,” a first offense of which is considered a misdemeanor. In addition to the above, ICE’s most recent pattern and tactics of arrests, including taking people into immigration custody without a warrant or after pretextual traffic stops and using large-scale “sweeps” of “likely immigrants” confirm that the current administration is focusing its deportation resources on all undocumented immigrants, without regards to their criminal history.
In addition to the increased number of ICE detainees with a clean record, the data also shows that 18 percent of the 44,435 individuals detained by ICE had resided continuously in the U.S. for ten years or more, and that one out of four had been in the country for at least five years. Additionally, a small percentage of these detainees are or were lawful permanent residents (meaning that they hold or have held a green card).
These numbers make it clear that, under the current administration, the scope of removable immigrants has significantly expanded and it now includes undocumented immigrants, foreign nationals who overstayed or violated the terms of their visas as well as green card holders with a criminal record. Therefore, it is very important that those dealing with potential deportation issues, such as unauthorized immigrants and permanent residents with a criminal record (especially those who plan to travel) we would strongly recommend a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney.