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ICE arrests of non-criminal immigrants in New York City spiked this year

The surge is emblematic of a larger problem across the country.

New York City has seen a significant jump in the number of immigration-related arrests conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the 2018 fiscal year, according to new data released by the New York City Mayor's Office of Immigration Affairs (Photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images)
New York City has seen a significant jump in the number of immigration-related arrests conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the 2018 fiscal year, according to new data released by the New York City Mayor's Office of Immigration Affairs (Photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

New York City has seen a significant jump in the number of immigration-related arrests conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the 2018 fiscal year, according to new data released by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs.

The numbers demonstrate an uptick from 2017, when 2,576 individuals were arrested. In 2018, that number jumped to 3,476.

Fewer than half of the immigrants detained — roughly 1,259 of them — had no criminal convictions, an 87 percent jump from the previous fiscal year. At least 804 of those detained without a criminal conviction had pending charges, meaning ICE arrested them before they had a chance to clear their name in immigration court.

Immigration lawyers in Connecticut, New York, and California say arresting immigrants with pending charges disrupts the criminal justice system. At times, immigrants are held in ICE detention centers far from the courthouse where their cases are being heard. The Denver Post noted, for instance, that some detainees had criminal cases in Utah, but Colorado authorities wouldn’t transport them because it was considered too costly.

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In New York City, the majority of ICE arrests occur outside courthouses. ICE agents, oftentimes in plain-clothes, target immigrants at hearings they must attend in order participate in criminal proceedings.

In April, a number of workplace ICE raids rocked the city. More than 200 immigrants were arrested in a five-day raid across the area’s five boroughs, 45 of whom had no criminal record.

According to The Intercept, one man said he was awakened at 6:30 a.m. by ICE agents pounding on his apartment door. Despite telling the agents he had an appointment with his immigration attorney that day about a pending green card application, ICE agents told him “it doesn’t matter,” and he was subsequently arrested.

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The New York City data squares with ICE arrests nationwide. For fiscal year 2018, ICE conducted 158,581 arrests, up from 110,104 in 2016, when Trump was elected, and 143,470 in 2017, his first year in office. According to the agency, 66 percent of the individuals arrested were “convicted criminals”; more than half of those were convicted for drunk driving.

That means a little less than 40 percent of ICE arrests this year affected non-criminal immigrants. At least 1,525 of the arrests made in fiscal year 2018 occurred in workplace operations, up from just 172 the previous year.

The dramatic increase in ICE arrests is the direct result of the Trump administration’s hardline crackdown on immigration. Emboldened by the president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, officials have essentially been given carte blanche to ramp up enforcement. At the end of 2017, acting ICE director Thomas Homan called for a 400 percent increase in workplace raids.

The administration’s actions and policies have had a tangible impact on the immigrant community. In New York, news of the administration’s proposed “public charge” policy — which would target immigrants for using public benefits, killing their chances at legal residency — resulted in a number of immigrant women dropping out of programs like WIC, which provides food assistance to low-income parents.

In September 2018, 397 participants dropped out of WIC. According to Public Health Solutions, the largest WIC provider in New York state, the most significant drop-offs in its caseload occurred during November 2016, January 2017, April 2017, and May 2018. These dates correlate with Trump’s election and inauguration, the first leaked public charge rule, and a second leaked order.