The Department of Homeland Security held 477,523 in detention during the 2012 fiscal year, a figure that the department calls “an all-time high” in a recent announcement of its FY 2012 enforcement actions. DHS, Immigration Enforcement Actions: 2012 Annual Report 5 (Dec. 2013). DHS also removed a record number of people in FY 2012: 419,384. Just under half of those removed had been convicted of a crime.
DHS’s enforcement tactics in FY 2012 vastly exceeded anything it had accomplished to date. Its detention population, for example, had hit an all-time high the previous fiscal year when 429,247 people were detained. The year before that, FY 2010, 363,064 people were held in an immigration prison at some point during the year. Id. at 5 tbl.4. In just two years it managed to increase its detention population by over 100,000 people.
This is quite a jump, but more so given that it has consistently detained record high numbers for several years, one year almost always surpassing the previous year’s high. In 2008 ICE claimed a “record total of 378,582, representing a 22 percent increase from 2007.” DHS, Immigration Enforcement Actions: 2008 Annual Report 3 (2009). That year, in turn, it reported detaining 311,169, a 21 percent rise from the previous year and “the fifth consecutive record high.” DHS, Immigration Enforcement Actions: 2007 Annual Report 1, 3 (2008).
Its total removal statistic is also eye-catching when looked at in context. During the 2011 fiscal year, DHS removed 388,409 and during the 2010 fiscal year it removed 383,031. DHS, 2012 Annual Report at 5 tbl.6.
The department also provided some information about the reasons its removed these people. According to its report, 199,445 of the 419,384 people (47.56%) removed in FY 2012 had a criminal record of some type. This means that 52.44% (219,339 people) removed in FY 2012 had no criminal history whatsoever. Id. at 6 tbl.7.
Of those who had been convicted of a crime, most were likely not dangerous offenses. The department reported that 23.8% (47,438 people) had been convicted of an immigration crime (e.g., unauthorized entry or unauthorized reentry). A similar number—23.1% or 46.038 people—were convicted of a “criminal traffic offense.” Though DHS notes that this includes hit-and-run and driving under the influence crimes, it does not note what percentage of traffic offenders were convicted of hit-and-run or DUI. The final category that reached a double-digit percentage is that of individuals convicted of a “dangerous drugs” crime—21.4 or 42,620 people. Again, DHS notes that this category includes “manufacturing, distribution, sale, and possession of illegal drugs,” but fails to indicate how many people fell into which of these types of criminal activities. Id. at 7 tbl.8.