The number of arrests and removals by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) increased in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2018 compared with the same period the previous year, according to new figures released Thursday.
Arrests of undocumented immigrants rose by 17 percent and removals were up by about 9 percent between October 2017 and June 2018. Almost 120,000 undocumented immigrants were arrested, compared with about 102,500 arrests during the same period in 2017.
ICE arrested about 40,000 immigrants who did not have prior criminal records, up from about 24,000 arrests in the same fiscal 2017 period. That follows previously reported trends of ICE officers picking up more individuals who do not have a record of criminal conviction.
The Trump administration has said it will focus its immigration enforcement efforts on individuals with criminal backgrounds.
ICE made about 41,000 total arrests in the third quarter, April through June, up slightly from 40,000 in the second quarter.
Nathalie Asher, the acting executive associate director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, said on a call with reporters Thursday that the arrests reflect the agency's “focus on target and enforcement operations that are based on intelligence leads.”
“We continue to focus our enforcement efforts on those who pose a public safety threat and those who violate the integrity of our immigration laws,” Asher said.
She added that, of the immigrants arrested who didn’t have criminal convictions, 61 percent came to ICE’s attention “due to criminal charges" and said some may have criminal convictions that ICE can’t confirm.
ICE removed about 191,500 individuals during the first three quarters of fiscal year 2018, up from about 175,500 removals over the same period in fiscal year 2017.
Arrests have surged under President Trump, who promised during his campaign to impose a hardline stance against illegal immigration.
ICE has come under increased criticism ever since Trump imposed a “zero tolerance” immigration policy that included referrals for criminal prosecution for anyone caught crossing the border illegally. That resulted in thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents at the U.S. border.
Trump in June signed an executive order to end the policy, but hundreds of children remain separated from their parents.
Some Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have called for ICE to be abolished. Republicans have argued that abolishing the agency would result in an increase of violence as well as human and drug trafficking.