Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are increasingly cracking down on noncriminal immigrants.
ICE arrests of people without criminal records has increased 66 percent this year, The Associated Press reported Thursday. Meanwhile, arrests of convicts rose less than 2 percent.
"Unshackling ICE has really allowed it to go after more individuals," Sarah Pierce, an analyst for the nonpartisan think tank Migration Policy Institute, told AP. She called the dramatic increase in noncriminal immigrant arrests "a defining characteristic of this administration's approach to immigration."
In 2017, there was a 174 percent increase in noncriminal immigrant deportations compared to the previous year, while the number of immigrants expelled who had convictions rose less than 13 percent.
The Trump administration has touted an ICE report that said 56 percent of its deportations in 2017 were among people with criminal convictions, but AP notes that President Trump's hard-line approach to immigration has led to a sharp uptick in deportations for people with lower-level infractions. The Bush administration deported even more noncriminal immigrants, ICE data shows, and the Obama administration deported record numbers of immigrants but decreased the number of noncriminal deportations.
Comparatively, ICE is more recently increasing the number of arrests among immigrants already living in the U.S. — often for many years — rather than focusing efforts on illegal border crossings. Experts say ICE will continue targeting "low-hanging fruit," like noncriminal immigrants involved in traffic violations, in order to keep increasing numbers. Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza