The number of undocumented immigrants arrested under the Trump administration continued to rise in 2018, hitting the highest number since 2014 and marking an 11% increase from the year before, according to a report released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Friday.
Overall, ICE arrested 158,581 undocumented immigrants in fiscal year 2018, an increase from previous years driven by greater detention numbers of immigrants who have criminal charges but have not yet been prosecuted, and individuals with other immigration violations.
Under the Trump administration, ICE enforcement operations have shifted to not exempt any class of immigration violators from arrest, but officers continue to prioritize the arrest and deportation of convicted criminals and repeat immigration violators, agency officials have said.
In 2018, 66% of the individuals arrested by ICE were convicted criminals, more than half of which had drunk driving convictions, according to the agency.
“There is no question that these arrests positively impacted public safety and made communities safer,” ICE Deputy Director Ronald D. Vitiello said.
Deportations by ICE also increased in 2018 as the number of apprehensions at the border by ICE’s sister agency, Customs and Border Protection, rose, the report says. Among the more than 250,000 immigrants deported, nearly 6,000 were known or suspected gang members, including more than 1,300 members of MS-13.
In a call with reporters Friday, Vitiello said that a recent surge in crossings on the US-Mexico border has led to record levels of detention at ICE facilities, above what they are budgeted to hold, and expressed concern that an impasse in Congress over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which ICE is under, could force the release of some of those detainees.
“We’re worried,” Vitiello said. “If we begin releasing aliens due to budgetary constraints, which has occurred in the past and created public safety risks, ICE may be forced to release criminal aliens back into our communities to possibly reoffend.”