The administration of President Donald Trump likes to promote the narrative that its ongoing crackdown on undocumented immigrants is an effort to keep citizens safe. Since taking office 100 days ago, Trump has consistently exaggerated the threat from undocumented “criminals” and insisted that immigration sweeps across the country were targeting bad people who are a threat to society.
Plenty of evidence exists to blow up this claim, and it’s not surprising that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have gone to great lengths to carefully manage statistics and public statements regarding raids and deportations, which have spiked since Trump took office. ICE officials have even kept members of Congress largely in the dark about whom they have targeted for deportation.
New data obtained by The Washington Post on 675 immigrants rounded up across the country starting in early February show that this narrative about targeting mostly criminals is largely false. According to the newspaper, about half of this number who were swept over a two-month period in “Operation Cross Check,” as it was dubbed, had no criminal convictions or had committed only traffic offenses, with the most serious offense being drunk driving.
Yet ICE’s statements on the operations highlighted immigrants with convictions on more serious crimes and downplayed those who had mostly lived as law-abiding members of the community.
Referring to ICE’s public statements, the newspaper noted:
The largest single group—163 immigrants convicted of traffic offenses—was mentioned only briefly. Over 90 percent of those cases involved drunken driving, ICE said Friday. Of those taken into custody in the raids, 177 had no criminal convictions at all, though 66 had charges pending, largely immigration or traffic offenses.
The data was provided to the newspaper by congressional aides on Friday. It covers ICE actions directed out of offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York. It is only a small sampling of the total number of undocumented immigrants taken into custody for deportation proceedings since Trump took office. Still, the number of arrests during that two-month period was a 32% increase over the same period last year, and it is unlikely that ICE’s arrest patterns have changed since then.
According to the Fair Immigration Reform Movement’s Kica Matos, the data “confirms our worst fears, which is that this administration is really trying to deport as many as possible regardless of whether they have a criminal record,” the Post reported.
The newspaper also noted that lawmakers have been frustrated for months over ICE’s lack of cooperation on information requests about the raids. Now we know why.