New Study Shows ICE is Not Targeting Serious Criminals

New Study Shows ICE is Not Targeting Serious Criminals
Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

In defending his immigration policies, President Trump often argues that his purpose is to deport “criminals” (“bad hombres”) from the United States.  Notwithstanding this rhetoric, a new study reveals a different result. The study, from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), released on July 19, shows that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is in fact not targeting serious criminals.

The TRAC study states that “the latest data from the Immigration Courts through June 2019 shows only 2.8 percent of recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) filings based deportability claims on any alleged criminal activity.  This is way down from the emphasis on deporting criminals that prevailed a decade ago”.

Specifically, this 2.8 percent amount is way down from such percent amount being above 15 percent in years 2009 through 2012, and being above 10 percent in year 2013 and year 2015; such percent amount has declined in every year since year 2015.

The TRAC study further states that “even the number of Immigration Court filings citing criminal grounds is way down.  Despite the rising number of ICE interior arrests and individuals who are detained, fewer and fewer immigrants in the Immigration Court’s growing workload are being cited as deportable based upon criminal activity.  During the first nine months of FY 2019 only 7,458 cases have been lodged by DHS citing criminal activity as a basis for seeking the removal order. If this same pace continues for the remaining three months of the year, the total is still unlikely to reach 10,000.

A decade or more ago immigrants with criminal records or alleged criminal activity involved 30,000 to 40,000 court filings each year . . . This drop is similar to what TRAC has reported earlier for a variety of immigration enforcement actions. For example, despite the increasing number of individuals ICE detains, TRAC found that fewer and fewer immigrants convicted of serious felonies were arrested and held in custody by the agency.  In contrast, immigrants who were detained but had never been convicted of even a minor violation shot up 39 percent”.     

The TRAC study also notes that “given standards for mandatory detention, Immigrant Courts hearing cases at ICE detention facilities often have higher proportions of individuals where DHS cites alleged criminal activity as a basis for seeking removal.  But even here immigrants make up a small minority of the court’s docket.

For example in Tacoma, Washington which handles cases at the Northwest Detention Center only one in ten cases (10.3) this year cite criminal activity as a basis for seeking the immigrant’s removal. . . . At the other end of the continuum, at ten Immigration Courts less than 0.5 percent of DHS filings this year involved alleged criminal activity as a basis for removal”.  These immigration courts where “less than 0.5 percent of DHS filings this year involved alleged criminal activity as a basis for removal” are located in Houston, Newark, Louisville, New Orleans, San Diego, Philadelphia, Memphis, Denver, Harlingen (in Texas), and Charlotte.

The statistics for the immigration court in Houston are particularly noteworthy, as, according to the TRAC study, “only 5 out of 15,063 new filings cited a criminal record as a basis DHS alleged justified the immigrant’s removal”.

While a strong argument can be made that serious criminals pose a greater risk to our society than do undocumented immigrants who have not committed any serious crime, the issue of whether ICE resources should be devoted to focusing on the deportation of serious criminals ultimately will be a political question that can be debated. 

What is definitely certain from the TRAC study is that all undocumented immigrants, regardless of whether they are serious criminals, need to be concerned with deportation, as they are the focus of deportation under the Trump administration. Under the anti-immigration environment created by the Trump administration, all immigrants should hire attorneys, such as Kameli Law, which has years of success in representing immigrants, to work to safeguard their immigrant rights.  If you need assistance on any immigration issue, please contact the Kameli Law, at or 312-233-1000, for help.

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