Although many immigrants worry that they could be targeted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement despite causing no problems, recent information suggests that the agency has been focusing mostly on those with criminal issues. At the same time, however, ICE arrests were up overall in 2017 -- especially among those without prior convictions.
According to ICE data analyzed by the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of all ICE arrests during fiscal year 2017 involved immigrants with prior criminal convictions. Another 16 percent had pending criminal cases. That left about 11 percent who had no known criminal charge or conviction.
That is a big change from a decade ago. In 2009 (the earliest year with comparable statistics), the majority of immigrants arrested by ICE had no convictions. Over the past eight years or so, the percentage of non-criminal arrests has dropped and the percentage of criminal arrests has risen.
Over the course of the Obama administration, the total number of ICE arrests dropped by a little over half. In 2009, there were 297,898 arrests by ICE. In 2017 there were only 143,470. However, that number represented a 30-percent increase in arrests over 2016.
The most common types of criminal issues, whether prior convictions or pending charges, included DUI, drugs and traffic offenses. Those were followed closely by immigration-related criminal charges and especially convictions.
One trend to watch, however, is the percentage change in arrests of people without criminal convictions. In fiscal year 2017, the number of arrestees without criminal convictions jumped by 146 percent. The number of arrestees with criminal convictions rose by only 12 percent.
In ICE's New Orleans area of responsibility, which includes Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama, non-criminal arrests were up an astonishing 252 percent last fiscal year.
So, the trends do indicate that the vast majority of ICE arrests still involve immigrants who have prior criminal records. However, the percentage of arrests of those with only pending criminal charges or no criminal history rose substantially last year.
If you are an immigrant who may be subject to arrest or deportation, it may be a good idea to keep an immigration attorney's contact information at hand. Be confident that a good immigration attorney will zealously represent your side, no matter what your legal situation.