November 27, 2019 – According to case-by-case data recently obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, the growth in detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the past four years has been fueled by a steady increase in the number of detainees with no criminal history. On the last day of April 2019, ICE held about 50,000 people in detention centers nationwide. Nearly 32,000 – or 64% – of detainees had no criminal conviction on record. This is up from 10,000 – or just under 40% of the nationwide total – four years prior.

Over the same period, the total number of ICE detainees with criminal convictions remained consistently between a low of 16,000 in March 2015 to a high of just over 19,000 in late 2017 and early 2018. Changes in presidential administration – as well as changes in ICE’s own enforcement priorities that accompany each administration – appear to have little effect on the total number of detained immigrants with criminal convictions. It also should be noted that ICE’s definition of criminal convictions encompass immigration violations such as illegal entry, as well as minor infractions of the law including simple traffic citations.

The majority (85%) of ICE’s nearly 32,000 detainees with no criminal history in April 2019 are held in just one-third of ICE’s 214 detention centers. Many of these detention centers are near the U.S.-Mexico border, such as Karnes County Civil Detention Facility. Yet others are spread across the United States, including Stewart Detention Facility in Georgia and Tacoma ICE Processing Center in Washington.

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