Data shows what many communities have been feeling the past couple of years: immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States has remained a priority for the Trump administration, casting a wide net through enforcement actions that kept the rates of deportation moving upward. According to newly released government data on immigration enforcement and removals, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested, detained, and/or deported more people during fiscal year (FY) 2018 than the previous year.
Specifically, in FY 2018 ICE reported making 158,581 arrests for civil violations of immigration law, which is about an 11 percent increase from FY 2017. Deportations increased about 13 percent to 256,085 in FY 2018, with 95,360 removals tied to ICE interior enforcement and the rest stemming from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehensions in the border zone.
While these numbers are far below record levels—the nearly 400,000 removals in FY 2012—they still represent increases since President Trump took office. What’s the reason for the increases? In part, immigration enforcement under the Trump administration expanded in scope, after the President eliminated enforcement priorities from the Obama administration that focused resources and enforcement efforts on groups of individuals deemed to be a priority for removal.
Many worried and suspected these changes would result in more arrests and deportations of immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a long time or those with little or no criminal history.
And such arrests did increase during FY 2018, according to the ICE data. Compared to FY 2017, ICE arrested nearly a third more immigrants who had no criminal history but were in the country without legal status. These 20,464 arrests made up about 13 percent of all ICE arrests in FY 2018. An additional 32,977 of ICE arrests in FY 2018 involved individuals who had been charged—but not convicted—of a crime, up 48 percent from last year’s 22,256 such arrests. The remaining 105,140 arrests in FY 2018 involved people with criminal convictions, nearly half of which were immigration violations, such as unlawful entry to the United States, that resulted in criminal prosecutions before the deportation process was initiated.
There is little doubt that the Trump administration and immigration hardliners will continue touting this aggressive approach to immigration enforcement in 2019. Yet this year’s numbers show the effects of that agenda: higher enforcement numbers and many community members torn from family, friends, and social fabric of the country.