Alan Gomez , USA TODAY Published 12:03 p.m. ET May 17, 2017 | Updated 2 hours ago
(Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images)
In the 100 days since President Trump signed an executive order to enhance immigration enforcement, the arrests of undocumented immigrants is up 38% from the same time period in 2016, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data released Wednesday.
ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan said his agency is focusing on undocumented immigrants with criminal records, the "bad hombres" that Trump spoke about throughout his presidential campaign. But the data show that the biggest jump in arrests involved undocumented immigrants without a criminal record, a 156% increase from last year.
Between Jan. 22 and April 29, ICE arrested 10,845 people whose immigration violations were the only marks on their record. That's nearly triple the 4,242 people arrested during the same time period in President Barack Obama's final year in office.
Of all the people arrested by ICE this year, nearly 75% had a criminal record. In Obama's final year in office, 92% of people arrested by ICE in the country had a criminal record.
"I get asked a lot why we arrest somebody that’s not a criminal," Homan said. "Those who do enter the country illegally, they do violate the law, that is a criminal act."
Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a group that advocates for immigrants, said Trump's public comments about going after the most dangerous immigrants were a diversion from his goal: mass deportations.
"If we don't call it out and stand up to it, America is moving in the direction of committing a mistake of historic proportions — driving millions of immigrants who are deeply rooted in our country out of the country they now call home," Sharry said.
ICE agents have been able to arrest more non-criminals due to an executive order Trump signed on Jan. 25. In that order, the president expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants considered "priorities" for deportation.
Under Obama, undocumented immigrants had to be a gang member, convicted of a felony, or convicted of several misdemeanors to be deemed a deportation priority. Under Trump, undocumented immigrants simply have to be arrested for a crime — not convicted — to become a priority. Trump also allowed ICE agents to focus on undocumented immigrants who they deem to be a "risk to public safety or national security."
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly further expanded the powers of ICE agents through new directives in February.
Under Obama, ICE agents who were conducting raids or seeking specific individuals could generally not arrest other undocumented immigrants they encountered along the way. For example, if an ICE officer entered a home looking for an undocumented immigrant with a violent record, they would not arrest other people found in the home.
Kelly's order changed that. Now, ICE agents are allowed to round up anybody they encounter and arrest them if they're in the country illegally, which has driven up the number of non-criminals arrested by the agency.
On Wednesday, Homan emphasized all undocumented immigrants will still receive their day in court and be able to fight back against their removal.
"All of those arrested will receive the due process afforded to them under the law," Homan said. "We are a nation of laws, and ignoring orders issued by federal judges undermines our constitutional government."
ICE did see a drop in one area: deportations.
Homan said the agency removed 56,315 people from the U.S. in that time period, a 12% drop from the same period in 2016. He said that was due to a backlog in immigration courts, the time-consuming nature of deportations of undocumented immigrants living in the country and a drop in people caught crossing the southwest border, which often leads to quick deportations.