ICE Numbers Reveal Need for Revised Definition of ‘Criminal’

Immigration Impact/ by Travis Packer

ICE claims it is beginning to detain more criminal immigrants, but the numbers aren’t so black and white when you examine how it defines criminality.

A new report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) released last week reveals that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is beginning to detain more criminal immigrants as opposed to non-criminal immigrants, which is in line with ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton’s stated goal.

The numbers, however, aren’t so black and white when you examine how ICE defines criminality. ICE currently classifies “criminals” as persons found guilty of minor violations of law such as traffic offenses, disorderly conduct, as well as immigrations violations such as illegal entry. While the report, which covers the first three months of Fiscal Year 2010, hints that the growing proportion of criminal detainees is the result of revised detention policies under the Obama administration, the report begs the questions of who we’re locking up, why and at what expense.

During the first quarter of FY 2010, 43 percent of detainees had a criminal record, compared to only 27 percent in FY 2009, according to the TRAC report. From 2005 to 2009, the percentage of detainees with a criminal record declined from 40 percent to 27 percent before the recent uptick.

The goal of ICE programs such as Secure Communities and the Criminal Alien Program is to detain “high risk criminal aliens” who have committed serious offenses. But what about immigrants who have never been convicted of a serious crime? Read More…

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