San Diego

More Than Half of Detained Immigrants in 2017 Did Not Have Criminal Records: Data

ICE arrests of immigrants living in San Diego that do not have a criminal past increased by about 257 percent compared to the previous year

More than half of immigrants detained in San Diego last year by Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not have criminal convictions, according to recently released data.

NBC 7 Investigates filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the number of arrests made by ICE’s San Diego sector office and received numbers that show about 52 percent of immigrants detained last year in San Diego County do not have criminal convictions.

The data showed that in 2017, ICE arrests of immigrants living in San Diego that do not have a criminal past increased by about 257 percent compared to the previous year.

The number of arrests of non-criminal immigrants has increased by 59 percent since 2014, according to the data. 

A spokesperson for ICE said the spike in San Diego came from the period from October to December 2017 when larger numbers of migrants began to reach the U.S.-Mexico border and were processed by both California Border Patrol and then transferred to ICE for processing.

The spokesperson said it was not indicative of their larger statistic of non-criminal arrests. 

So far this year, arrests of immigrants with criminal convictions is higher than the arrest of non-criminal immigrants. Data was only released through April 2018. 

From January to April, ICE has detained 731 immigrants with criminal convictions and 539 non-criminal immigrants, data shows. 

Figures released Wednesday by Transactional Records Access Clearing House (TRAC), a research entity of Syracuse University, indicate that 59 percent those being held in detention centers in San Diego do not have a criminal record either.

San Diego's numbers are on par with the number of non-criminal immigrants being held in detention centers across the United States. 

Until June 30 of this year, 44,435 people were in detention centers, of which 21 percent committed minor crimes, 16 percent committed serious crimes and 58 percent had no criminal record, according to TRAC.

TRAC found that about 66 percent of those without criminal convictions remain in custody for up to one year. 

ICE said TRAC's numbers contradict their findings from June 23, 2018 that said 54 percent of ICE's detained population had a criminal conviction or pending charge. 

ICE released the following statement in response to the data released by TRAC: 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) focuses detention resources on mandatory detention cases and aliens with criminal activity; however, no category of alien is exempt from enforcement. All aliens in ICE custody are detained as a result of immigration violations. An analysis of the ICE population at nearly the same time (June 23, 2018) of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse’s (TRAC) report shows 54% of ICE’s detained population had a criminal conviction or pending charge(s) and 70% were subject to mandatory detention. These figures reflect appropriate allocation of limited resources. As an agency, ICE is charged with administrative civil detention, which means individuals who come into ICE custody can only be detained for the purposes of furthering an immigration case or removal from the country. ICE makes custody determinations in accordance with U.S. law and DHS policy.

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