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ICE arrests went up in 2017, most arrestees had criminal records

After several years of decline, in 2017 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) dramatically increased the number of immigrants it arrested. The largest percentage increases occurred in Florida, northern Texas and Oklahoma.

These findings are based on ICE data analyzed by the Pew Research Center. Pew also found that a large majority of those arrested by ICE in 2017 -- 74 percent -- had past criminal convictions. This was true despite a Jan. 25 executive order authorizing ICE to expand its focus to unauthorized immigrants with no criminal history. However, the percentage of those without criminal records who were arrested by ICE jumped by 146 percent.

ICE data show that the total number of arrests by the agency peaked in 2009 with 297,898. By contrast, there were 143,470 arrests in 2017. However, the 2017 total represented a three-year high and a 42-percent jump over 2016.

ICE arrests are reported by the agency's geographic "areas of responsibility," and the Dallas area had the second largest percentage increase in arrests at 71 percent. By contrast, the Houston area only showed a 5-percent increase and San Antonio a 1 percent increase.

In actual numbers of arrest, however, Dallas and Houston topped the list. 16,520 people were arrested in the Dallas area last year and 13,585 in Houston.

The trend of arresting more immigrants without prior criminal convictions is noticeable in ICE's Texas areas of responsibility, but not as much as in some other areas. In the Dallas area, arrests of non-criminal immigrants jumped by 156 percent in 2017; in Houston it leapt by 174 percent. However, in fully half of the ICE areas, non-criminal arrests rose by 200 percent or more, while in the San Antonio area they only rose by 51 percent.

Interestingly, the most common type of past criminal conviction involving arrested immigrants was DWI. Drug possession or sales was the second most common, followed by other types of traffic offenses and immigration offenses.

ICE also keeps track of arrestees with pending criminal cases. The most common type of pending criminal case among the arrested immigrants was traffic. DWI and drug offenses were second and third most common.

These findings show the complexity of the true narrative about immigration arrests during the current and previous administrations. Total arrests were quite a bit higher in 2017 than 2016, but nowhere near as high as in 2009. The percentage of non-criminal arrests followed the same pattern -- up in 2017 but far lower than 2009 totals.

ICE arrests are, however, increasing -- and often for crimes that don't necessarily require deportation. If you or a loved one is arrested by ICE, you should contact an immigration lawyer immediately.

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