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Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde July 15, 2020

Donald Trump moves on promise to deport immigrants with criminal records

In his campaign for the White House and throughout his presidency, Donald Trump spotlighted cases of Americans killed by immigrants in the country illegally and pledged to deport "all criminal aliens" to make America safer.

Days after the November 2016 election, Trump told CBS' Lesley Stahl that immigrants here illegally with criminal records, gang members and drug dealers would be incarcerated or deported. "We have a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million," Trump said.

Trump was referring to a Department of Homeland Security report for fiscal years 2011-13 that estimated there were 1.9 million "removable criminal aliens" in the United States at the time. The 1.9 million included immigrants legally and illegally in the country.

The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimated in July 2015 that 820,000 of the 1.9 million noncitizens convicted of crimes were in the country illegally. But the exact number is difficult to determine. Studies also have found that immigrants here illegally are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.

A fiscal year 2019 performance report from the Department of Homeland Security details how many immigrants in the country illegally with criminal convictions were returned or removed from the United States by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It amounted to about 423,000 people from fiscal years 2017 to 2019 (2017 included about four months of the Obama administration), according to the report.

Removals reported by ICE include people apprehended by Border Patrol and sent to ICE for deportation, and people who already live in the United States and were arrested by ICE agents.

From fiscal years 2017 to 2019, ICE agents arrested and eventually deported around 205,000 convicted criminals and about 36,000 immigrants with pending criminal charges.

Over that same period, ICE said it deported around 17,000 known or suspected gang members and 145 known or suspected terrorists. ICE did not specify how many were known gang members or terrorists.

Overall, ICE missed the target number of criminals it planned to remove in 2017, surpassed its target in 2018 and was just short of it in 2019. DHS said ICE missed its target in 2019 because of the reallocation of personnel to the border to assist with a surge of arrivals and due to non-cooperation from local law enforcement agencie

Trump's administration has deported thousands of immigrants with criminal records and people known or suspected to be gang members and terrorists. He promised to deport "all" immigrants here illegally who are criminals, and while a precise number is hard to pin down, the numbers he has deported fall short of his own estimates. We rate this a Compromise.

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde January 10, 2019

More criminals in the country illegally are deported

President Donald Trump's administration has deported thousands of immigrants with criminal convictions, moving forward on what Trump said he would do if elected to the White House.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency in charge of implementing immigration laws within the United States, said that in fiscal year 2018 it deported more than 145,000 immigrants with criminal convictions. Overall that year, it removed about 256,000 people. (A federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.)

The agency's report did not offer a breakdown of the type of crimes committed by the immigrants deported.

ICE news releases shows that among the deported during Trump's time in office include immigrants with criminal convictions for weapons trafficking, financial crimes, and felony involuntary manslaughter. (In that case, the man who was deported struck and killed another man in a parking lot.)

The number of convicted criminals deported in 2018 was slightly higher than the 128,000 deported in fiscal year 2017, which included about four months of the Obama administration.

ICE also reported close to 5,900 removals of known or suspected gang members in 2018 and about 5,400 in 2017.

At the same time, ICE said it removed 45 known or suspected terrorists in 2017 and 42 in 2018. There could be some overlap with the known or suspected gang members data, ICE said.

Overall, Trump has not backed away from his campaign calls to deport immigrants with criminal convictions. Through an executive order, he expanded the categories of people prioritized for deportation to include individuals charged with a criminal offense, even if not yet convicted.

We wanted to compare the number of people he's deported with the best estimates for the overall pool. In November 2016, after winning the presidential election, Trump claimed there could be as many as 2 or 3 million immigrants in the country illegally who were also criminals. We found that estimate to be based on assumptions, stemming from a Department of Homeland Security report covering fiscal years 2011-13. That report said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimated there were 1.9 million "removable criminal aliens" in the United States at the time. The 1.9 million total included immigrants here legally and illegally.

The Migration Policy Institute in a 2015 report estimated that of that 1.9 million, there could be about 820,000 unauthorized immigrants with criminal convictions. The group's estimate is based on the assumption that unauthorized immigrants commit crimes at similar rates as other noncitizens.

Trump is making progress on his pledge to deport immigrants who commit crimes. We rate this In the Works.

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde May 19, 2017

ICE releases data on immigrants arrested so far in Trump’s presidency

An immigration enforcement agency says it has arrested more than 41,000 immigrants known or suspected of being in the country illegally — and close to 75 percent of them were convicted criminals.

Per U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, of those arrested between Jan. 22 and April 29:

• 30,473 were convicted criminal aliens, up from 25,786 in the same period in 2016

• More than 2,700 convictions were for violent crimes, such as homicide, rape, kidnapping

• Among the arrested were one of ICE's "Most Wanted Fugitives" and MS-13 gang members

"ICE agents and officers have been given clear direction to focus on threats to public safety and national security, which has resulted in a substantial increase in the arrest of convicted criminal aliens," said ICE acting director Thomas Homan. "However, when we encounter others who are in the country unlawfully, we will execute our sworn duty and enforce the law.

Arrests of non-criminals also increased about 157 percent during this period: from about 4,200 in 2016 to more than 10,800 in 2017.

The data shows the Trump administration is moving forward with its plan to remove criminal undocumented immigrants.

We continue to rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde February 21, 2017

Trump signs executive order directing enforcement priorities; DHS issues enforcement memo

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 25 directing the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the removal of immigrants in the country illegally.

The order set wide parameters on the categories of people who would become a priority, ranging from individuals engaged in terrorist activities to people charged with crimes but not yet convicted.

Trump's directive makes the "broadest possible definition of 'criminal alien,' " said David Martin, an emeritus professor of law at the University of Virginia and former principal deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security.

Trump's executive order said enforcement priorities include "removable aliens" who are or have:

- Described in specific sections of immigration laws: such as individuals convicted of crimes "involving moral turpitude" (murder, for instance), engage in terrorist activities, are convicted on weapon charges;

- Convicted of any criminal offense;

- Charged with any criminal offense, even if the charge has not been resolved;

- Committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense

- Engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation related to any official matter or application before a governmental agency;

- Abused programs related to receipt of public benefits;

- Subject to final order of removal; and,

- Pose a risk to public safety or national security, based on the judgment of an immigration officer.

Individuals who entered the country illegally -- without committing another crime -- are included in the order's call for removing immigrants who committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense, Martin said.

An individual living in the country illegally is subject to deportation under immigration law -- he or she doesn't have to be a convicted criminal to be eligible for removal. But toward the end of the Obama administration, people who were not convicted criminals were not the highest deportation priority.

A DHS memo dated Feb. 20 presented guidance on the new order's implementation.

The document rescinded prior department memos regarding enforcement priorities. But it excluded from revocation two documents: a 2012 memo on deferred action for immigrants who came to the country as children and a 2014 memo that removed an age cap for immigrants who came as children and expanded the prosecutorial discretion to parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

More than 742,000 people have been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. (A 23-year-old who had been granted deferred deportation protection was detained by immigration authorities Feb. 10 in Washington state. ICE said he was arrested based on admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety.) The extended DACA provisions in the 2014 memo, along with a program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), were not implemented due to court challenges.

Aside from exemptions noted in the memo, "the department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement," Kelly said.

"All of those in violation of immigration law may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States," said a Q&A posted on DHS' website related to the executive order.

DHS also said it plans to expand the 287(g) program, which trains and authorizes local and state law enforcement officers to carry out federal immigration law. At the time, ICE has program agreements with more than 30 law enforcement agencies in 16 states, according to the agency.

At a press briefing Feb. 21, a reporter asked Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer: "Is one of the goals here mass deportation?"

"No," Spicer responded, emphasizing a priority on removing criminal immigrants.

"The message from this White House and from the DHS is that those people who are in this country and pose a threat to our public, or have committed a crime, will be the first to go, and we will be aggressively making sure that that occurs," Spicer said. "That is what the priority is."

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell University Law School professor, said that under new executive orders and DHS implementing memos, many more people will be detained and deported.

However, deportations may not happen as quickly as people might expect, due to backlogs for appearing before an immigration judge, Yale-Loehr said.

"Unless the administration finds funding to hire more immigration judges, those backlogs will skyrocket," Yale-Loehr said. "Congress also needs to find money to hire more border patrol and immigration enforcement personnel to carry out the executive orders."

Pending removals, we rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

White House, Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, Jan. 25, 2017

Vox, Trump's order on the deportation of undocumented residents, annotated by an immigration law expert, Jan. 31, 2017

Department of Homeland Security, Memo on enforcement priorities, Nov. 20, 2014

Department of Homeland Security, Q&A: DHS Implementation of the Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, Feb. 21, 2017

Department of Homeland Security, DHS Statement on Arrest of Alien Gang Member in Washington, Feb. 15, 2017

Phone interview, David Martin, an emeritus professor of law at the University of Virginia, Feb. 15, 2017

Email exchange, Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell University Law School professor, Feb. 21, 2017

U.S. Justice Department, 1934. Appendix D -- Grounds For Judicial Deportation

Reuters, Mexican 'DREAMer' nabbed in immigrant crackdown, Feb. 15, 2017

Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll January 16, 2017

Trump emphasizes deporting criminals

Anecdotes about undocumented immigrants who committed heinous crimes pervaded Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Trump promised that anyone living in the United States illegally would be subject to removal, with convicted criminals getting the highest priority for deportation.

"A Trump administration will stop illegal immigration, deport all criminal aliens, and save American lives," Trump said at a Nov. 2, 2016, rally in Miami.


Trump continuously asserted that undocumented immigrants are an outsized source of criminal activity in the United States. There is no evidence, though, that immigrants commit crimes at higher rates than native-born citizens.

As of July 2015, there are approximately 180,000 noncitizens with criminal records living in the United States, despite a government order for their removal.


As president, Trump could use his executive authority to revise President Barack Obama's deportation priorities or start from scratch.

Prioritizing criminals for deportation has been Obama's policy for the past few years, as well. More than 2 million people have been deported during the Obama administration.

Some of Trump's proposals would require congressional approval and funding.

For example, Trump wants Congress to pass Kate's Law, which would establish mandatory minimum sentences for undocumented immigrants who re-enter the United States after having been convicted of certain serious crimes.The measure is named for Kate Steinle, a woman killed by an undocumented immigrant who had been deported multiple times.  

He also wants to triple the number of deportation officers within Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  

And he proposes bringing back the Secure Communities program, which Obama discontinued in 2014. Under the program, state and local law enforcement agencies shared information with the federal government to help them identify undocumented immigrants for deportation.


These policies to prioritize removing criminal undocumented immigrants could cost several billion dollars over five years, according to a Washington Post analysis. Tripling ICE officers could cost about $11 billion, and reviving Secure Communities and passing Kate's Law could cost $1 billion each.

If Trump keeps with his broader promise to remove all undocumented immigrants, regardless of criminal record, experts say that could have a strong negative impact on the economy as a whole. The country would lose millions of laborers, and it could cost taxpayers $400 billion, according to conservative think tank American Action Forum.

Our Sources

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