While complete data is not yet available, preliminary analyses indicate that enforcement activities against undocumented immigrants has increased, particularly against those with no or minor criminal records. The data show increases in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests, cases filed in immigration court, and DHS immigration detainers issued.
Increased ICE Enforcement Operations
- DHS reports that between Jan. 22 and April 29, 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) deportation officers arrested 41,318 individuals on civil immigration charges. In comparison between Jan. 24 and April 30, 2016, ERO arrested only 30,028. This reflects an increase of 37.6%.
- Over 25% of those arrested did not have a criminal record during this period while 75% of those arrested had a conviction for a wide range of offenses. Violent crimes such as homicide, rape, kidnapping and assault accounted for approximately 2,700 convictions or about 6% of the people arrested. The Atlantic reported that between January 22 and April 29, 2017 ICE made about 10,800 “non-criminal arrests” compared to just 4,200 in 2016—an increase of more than 150%.
- In the first two months of the administration, 5,441 undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions were arrested, as reported by the Washington Post in late April. USA Today published a chart that shows the percent of undocumented immigrants deported who had previous criminal convictions during the Obama administration and shows the percentage during the first major enforcement operation during the Trump administration.
- ICE has only released a detailed breakdown of the criminal records from arrests in February. In February, half of the 675 immigrants had criminal records. 163 immigrants had been convicted of traffic offenses (according to ICE 90% of those involved driving while intoxicated). Two people had been convicted of homicide, 80 had been convicted of assault, and 57 had convictions for “dangerous drugs.” 66 immigrants only had charges pending, mostly immigration or traffic offenses.
- From Jan. 20 to March 13, 2017, ICE’s Atlanta office arrested the most immigrants who had never committed any crimes, with nearly 700 arrests, up from 137 the prior year. Philadelphia had the biggest percentage increase, with 356 noncriminal arrests, more than six times as many as the year before as reported by the Washington Post.
- The administration has expanded the range of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation including those who had previously been determined not to be a priority for deportation. As reported by Reuters, “Between March 1 and May 31, prosecutors moved to reopen 1,329 cases, according to a Reuters’ analysis of data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review. The Obama administration filed 430 similar motions during the same period in 2016.”
Increased Deportation Cases Filed in Immigration Court
- A recent analysis from Syracuse University found that new deportation cases filed in Immigration Court from October 1, 2016 through May, 2017 were mostly against individuals charged with committing an immigration violation such as entry without inspection. It found that only 1.7% of all cases were individuals charged as having committed an aggravated felony and an additional 4.1% were charged with engaging in less serious criminal activity. To-date this fiscal year, no one has been charged as being deportable because the individual supported or were likely to engage in terrorist activity. A graph and pie chart of these filings can be found here.
Increased Immigration Detainers
- Immigration detainers, voluntary requests from ICE to law enforcement agencies to hold those arrested beyond their normal release, rose to 22,161 between Jan. 20 and March 13, 2017 which was a 75% jump from the year before.
Impacts of Increased Immigration Enforcement
- Increased immigration enforcement can have detrimental economic effects. When Alabama passed a state immigration law aimed at increasing the identification and deportation of undocumented immigrants the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Alabama performed a cost benefit analysis estimating that the loss of 40,000 to 80,000 undocumented immigrants would result in 70,000 to 140,000 lost jobs in Alabama, which could amount to $1.2 to $5.8 billion in lost earnings and an additional $57 to $264 million in lost in state income and sales tax collections.
- Fear of deportation can have wide-ranging effects. The fear of deportation has an impact on more than the undocumented. While there is an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, it is estimated that at least 9 million people live in mixed status families that include at least one unauthorized adult and at least one U.S.-born child. A survey on effects of immigration enforcement found that fear of deportation takes many forms including individuals refusing to leave their houses for any reason, not taking children to school, and putting up with workplace violations.
- Workers who fear immigration enforcement may not show up to work. Time Magazine found in 2012 that “Farmers in Alabama and Georgia have been especially hard hit by state immigration laws, with farmers forced to leave produce to rot in their fields after immigrant workers have failed to show up for work. In Georgia, 56% of farmers say they are having trouble finding farmworkers. The Georgia Agribusiness Council says that migrant labor shortages could cost state farmers between $300 million to $1 billion.”
- Increased immigration enforcement can lead to worker shortages and limited ability for employers to expand. According to the Wall Street Journal, between 2007 and 2012, Arizona’s population of undocumented workers dropped by 40% the biggest decline of any state. Since 2007, about 200,000 undocumented immigrants left the state, which has a population of 6.7 million and since 2012, after Arizona passed its state immigration enforcement law, SB 1070, the undocumented immigration population has not grown. Arizona’s undocumented immigrants started to leave the state in 2008 after the state became the first to require all employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system. Since 2008, low-skilled U.S. native and legal immigrant workers filled less than 10% of the jobs once held by undocumented immigrants. Employers’ continued need for workers led to a 15% increase in wages for Arizona farmworkers and about 10% for construction workers between 2010 and 2014 and limited employers’ abilities to grow their businesses.