ICE Sets Record For Arresting Undocumented Immigrants Without A Criminal Background

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

Some records, such as winning the most Super Bowls or scoring the most points in an NCAA college basketball game, receive universal praise.  Other records garner a more mixed reaction. Such is the case with the recent news that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) set a record in December, 2018 by arresting the highest percentage of undocumented immigrants with no criminal background.  Specifically, 36.5 percent of the undocumented immigrants arrested by ICE in December, 2018 had no criminal record – the highest such percentage since ICE started categorizing arrests in 2012.

The achievement of this record is perhaps no surprise.  Under President Obama, ICE focused its efforts on arresting undocumented immigrants who had been convicted of crimes.  As a result, during President Obama’s final month in office, only 18 percent of the undocumented immigrants arrested by ICE had no criminal background.  Under President Trump, a different policy has been followed. Since February 2017, President Trump (pursuant to a series of memos issued by the Department of Homeland Security) has ordered ICE to arrest all undocumented immigrants, regardless of their criminal background.

With the change in policy, the average monthly number of undocumented immigrants without a criminal record arrested by ICE has significantly increased from 1,352 during the final 2 years of the Obama administration to 4,219 during the Trump administration.  The argument for the approach of the Trump administration is that an undocumented immigrant (by either entering the US illegally or staying in the US after such person’s visa has expired) is a criminal, even if such person has committed no other criminal violation.  “One hundred percent of those arrested . . . are immigration violators”, said Nathalie Asher, acting executive associate director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations.

The problem with the approach of the Trump administration is that it may not be the best use of the finite resources of ICE to arrest undocumented immigrants who lack a criminal background.  “We’re wasting resources deporting a lot of people who are assets to their communities who have families and mortgages and careers and car notes, and we’re going after them with the same vigor that we’re going after kidnappers and murderers and bank robbers. . . . That’s not a smart approach to law enforcement”, said Douglas Rivlin, communications director for America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group.

It is common to criticize the Trump administration for its harsh immigration policies.  Perhaps less common, but perhaps just as significant is to find fault with the Trump administration’s immigration priorities.  Should we be allocating the resources of ICE to arrest undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record, if thereby ICE is unable to arrest undocumented immigrants who are hardened criminals (or even terrorists)?  This problem of resource allocation is especially significant today when the Trump administration is devoting extensive immigration resources at the southern border.

This issue of arresting undocumented immigrants who do not have a criminal record is yet another example of how the Trump administration will be a continuing thorn to immigrant rights.  In this challenging environment for immigrant rights, Kameli Law, with its extensive experience in helping immigrants on a variety of issues, can assist you with your personal immigration issues.  Please contact the Kameli Law, at or 312-233-1000, for representation on your immigration matters.

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