Federal arrests of non-criminal undocumented immigrants have skyrocketed under Trump

In the first 14 months of the Trump administration, 58,010 undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions were arrested.

Under the Trump administration, arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record have tripled, according to new analysis from NBC News.(Photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images)
Under the Trump administration, arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record have tripled, according to new analysis from NBC News.(Photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Under the Trump administration, arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record have tripled, according to new analysis from NBC News.

The numbers appear to contradict the Trump administration’s claim that only “bad hombres” are being targeted by immigration law enforcement.

By looking through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data from the first 14 months of the Trump presidency, NBC News was able to calculate that arrests of undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions rose 203 percent compared to the final 14 months of the Obama administration — from 19,128 to 58,010. Arrests of undocumented immigrants with criminal records, meanwhile, rose only 18 percent under the Trump administration.

A spokesperson for ICE clarified to NBC News that “criminal” has a broad interpretation by the agency and can mean any misdemeanor or felony, ranging from jaywalking to murder, or even precious immigration offenses.

This increase can best be attributed to a recent ICE tactic of arresting undocumented individuals without a warrant.

In a class-action lawsuit filed against ICE by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Organized Communities Against Deportations, the groups argued that some immigrants in the Chicago area were “taken into immigration custody after pretextual traffic stops” and that “others were taken into custody after ICE came to their home or neighborhood purporting to look for someone else.” The groups allege that from May 18-24 this year, 156 individuals were arrested during a week-long intensified ICE enforcement in the city. Sixty-eight percent of those arrests were made without a warrant.


In order to make these warrantless arrests, NBC noted, agents need to have “reason to believe” that the individual is in the country unlawfully, and is “likely to escape” before a warrant can be obtained.

Advocacy groups claim ICE is indiscriminately making warrantless arrests through racial profiling without probable cause.

“Instead of having reasonable suspicion to make a stop and then finding probable cause of likelihood of escape before making a warrantless arrest, ICE makes assumptions,” the plaintiffs in the lawsuit state. “It improperly assumes that Hispanic looking, Spanish speaking people working in particular industries, e.g., construction work, are immigrants. It improperly assumes all immigrants meeting this profile are present in the United States without permission.”

In the case of Margarito Castañon Nava, an undocumented construction worker named in the Chicago lawsuit, ICE had no reason to believe he was in the country illegally or was a flight risk, yet on his way home from work with a co-worker, he was pulled over by two plainclothes ICE agents in an unmarked car. The agents did not give Castañon or his Latino co-worker a reason for the stop and did not have a warrant, attorneys said.


“The only thing I could think during this whole time was that they had pulled us over to see if we had immigration papers because both my co-worker and I appear Hispanic,” said Castañon, who’s lived in the United States for nearly two decades.

In Minnesota, there have also been reports of ICE agents hanging around county courthouses, waiting for undocumented immigrants to arrive for their immigration court hearings.

As ThinkProgress previously reported, a 25-year resident of the United States was arrested in a courthouse while attending a mandatory hearing.

“[Immigrants] show up for court and [ICE officers] take you right out of the courthouse,” Ramsey County Chief Public Defender Jim Fleming, told the Star-Tribune. “One of the issues is they don’t have to identify themselves. They can do this without a warrant.”

Other targets of recent ICE crackdowns include the roughly 442 undocumented immigrants arrested in New York City since the Trump administration began, and the 130 undocumented immigrants arrested in Minnesota and Nebraska last week, during one of the largest raids in ICE history.


These raids and arrests, often ignored amid the more recent discussions about the administration’s abusive family separation practice, have led to families being split up and have contributed to an increased sense of anxiety in Latinx communities across the country.

Alejandra Suarez, a mother to two American children and a wife to a former Marine, was deported to Mexico on August 3, after living in the United States for more than two decades. Her undocumented status was first revealed during a traffic stop in 2013 and her case deferred by the Obama administration, but under the Trump presidency, ICE felt emboldened to single her out once more.

Another undocumented woman in Miami was recently deported over a two-decades old marijuana case — a case for which she had already pleaded guilty, cooperated with prosecutors, and successfully served five years of probation.

Also in Miami this summer, a woman was deported to Venezuela after living in the country for 20 years. She had received a university degree, a good job, a home and built a quiet life in the states with her husband and two children.

In Pompano Beach, a Guatemalan mother is currently in ICE custody after being detained while trying to pay a traffic ticket.