The Trump administration continues to arrest higher numbers of undocumented immigrants, with especially higher rates of noncriminal immigrants as part of those arrests -- but deportations continue to lag behind the rates of the Obama administration, according to new data.
Overall, arrests ticked up nearly 40% from 2016 in the first half of this year -- but arrests of noncriminal immigrants more than doubled.
According to data from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement provided to members of the media Thursday evening, ICE made 75,045 administrative arrests of undocumented immigrants from January to June of 2017. Administrative arrests are used for routine arrests made based on immigration status. Of those, 19,752 of the undocumented immigrants were classified as non-criminals, which is 26% of the total.
In the same timeframe of 2016 under the Obama administration, ICE made 54,683 administrative arrests, of which 15%, or 8,053, were noncriminal.
But while the aggressive posture toward undocumented immigrants has been visible in the number of arrests, the first part of the year marked a decline in the number of immigrants actually deported.
From January to June of this year, ICE removed 105,178 undocumented immigrants from the country, of which 42%, or 43,808, were noncriminal.
In 2016 during the same time period, 121,170 undocumented immigrants were removed and 42% were noncriminal.
President Donald Trump took office on January 20.
The data confirms that the Trump administration has taken a much more aggressive tack toward arresting undocumented immigrants, regardless of whether they have committed offenses besides being in the country illegally, which is a civil, not criminal, violation. While the President has vowed to vastly step up deportations of people in the country illegally, the numbers have yet to live up to his pledge.
Deportations, however, can be difficult as a measure because cases can take years to work their way through the immigration courts.
Nevertheless, arrests in the Trump administration are in line with earlier periods in the Obama administration. In the first half of 2014, 27% of ICE arrests, or 25,135 people, were noncriminal undocumented immigrants. That was a period before Obama instituted deportation priorities -- a move that he only took after discussions to reform the nation's immigration policies fell apart in Congress. In that time period, deportations were also far ahead of the administration's total in the first half of this year. From January to June 2016, 160,442 people were removed from the country, with 44% of them being noncriminal.
ICE noted that the "noncriminal" category includes individuals who may have been charged with a crime that did not result in a conviction, and others who may have been previously deported. Re-entering after being deported can lead to criminal charges under US law.
In a statement, ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez said while the administration prioritizes threats to public safety, that does not mean others won't be targeted.
"US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security," Rodriguez said. "ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. However, as ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States."