Data that ICE recently released about its immigration enforcement efforts during fiscal year 2013 indicate that the agency continues to remove large numbers of people with no criminal history or fairly minor offenses on their record.
During fiscal year 2013, ICE reported, 368,644 individuals were removed. ICE, FY 2013 ICE Immigration Removals: ERO Annual Report at 1. The agency made much of the fact that almost all (98%) of these individuals fell into one or more of its immigration enforcement priorities as set out by a March 2011 memo from former ICE director John Morton. Any noncitizen convicted of a crime is considered a top priority. Within this priority category, though, crimes are divided into three levels “with Level 1 and Level 2 offenders receiving principal attention.” John Morton, ICE Director, to All ICE Employees, Civil Immigration Enforcement: Priorities for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens at 2 (March 2, 2011). ICE considers people who recently entered the United States without authorization or who entered without authorization after having been removed within its second and third prioritization categories, respectively. Id. at 2-3.
According to ICE’s report on its 2013 enforcement operations, 216,810 of the total number of people removed last year (58.8%) had previously been convicted of some crime FY 2013 ICE Immigration Removals: ERO Annual Report at 1. This means that 41.2% of people removed last year had no criminal history.
A close look at the data reveals that many of the individuals who were convicted of some crime were likely convicted of minor offenses. Of the individuals with some criminal history on their record, 95,453 (44% of those with convictions) were convicted of Level 3 offenses. Level 3 offenders are individuals convicted of at least one state or federal misdemeanor. Id. at 2. Another 47,198 (21.8% of those with convictions) were convicted of a Level 2 offense. To be classified as a Level 2 offender, an individual must have been convicted of one felony or at least three misdemeanors. The remaining 74,159 (34.2% of those with convictions) were convicted of one or more crimes defined as an “aggravated felony” by INA § 101(a)(43) or two felonies, thus placing them within the Level 1 offender category.
What this means is that roughly two-thirds of the people ICE removed last year who had been convicted of some crime were probably convicted of an offense that is fairly minor—one or more misdemeanors. The Level 3 offenders can definitely be described as such. Unfortunately, without more detailed data from ICE about Level 2 offenders we can’t know with greater certainty how many of these individuals were convicted of a felony and how many of three or more misdemeanors. It would also be quite helpful to know the specific crimes that such individuals were convicted of violating since a wide variety of offenses are included under the misdemeanor and felony umbrellas.
Even focusing on Level 1 offenders we can’t state with any confidence that these are dangerous individuals. The INA’s aggravated felony provision is expansive and includes such crimes as forging a passport, INA § 101(a)(43)(P), and tax evasion, INA § 101(a)(43)(M)(i). It also includes undeniably violent crimes such as murder and rape. INA § 101(a)(43)(A). More detailed data would help us to better understand the type of crimes committed by the people ICE removed last year.
Moreover, considering ICE’s removal figures as a whole, the number of individuals who were not convicted of any crime dwarfs the percentage of removed individuals who were convicted of a Level 1 offense. While 41.2% of the total number of people who were removed in FY 2013 were not convicted of any crime, only 20.1% were convicted of a Level 1 offense. Another 12.8% and 25.9% of the total number removed were convicted of Level 2 or Level 3 offenses, respectively.