Deportations Under ICE's Secure Communities Program
Immediately upon assuming office, President Trump issued an Executive Order terminating what was known as the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) and "reinstat[ing] the immigration [enforcement] program known as 'Secure Communities.'" This program is widely portrayed as the cornerstone of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) efforts for stepped up deportations.
Recently released ICE removal-by-removal records from Secure Communities—current through October 2017—provide a portrait of deportations of immigrants from each state and county in the nation by the Trump Administration. This report examines first how the level of Secure Communities deportations has changed under the new administration, and then turns to what types of crimes are now being targeted through this program.
Are Secure Communities Deportations Increasing?
The new administration initially did successfully ramp up deportations, although increases in removals of those who had committed serious crimes were modest. See TRAC's previous report with data through July 2017. Data now through October 2017 continue to show considerable month-to-month variability with no further upward trend. The number of those deported under this program - including some who have no criminal record - appear to have stabilized, averaging around 6,200 per month.
It is instructive to note that this number is still somewhat below the level that had prevailed during the Secure Communities years under President Obama. However, it does represent a significant increase above the Nov 2014 - January 2017 period when Obama's Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) replaced Secure Communities. See Figure 1 and Table 1.
What makes something a Secure Communities removal? Contrary to common belief, most Secure Communities removals according to ICE records don't involve the use of a detainer. Removals appear to be counted by ICE as a Secure Communities (or PEP program) deportation if at some point along the way ICE used FBI's automatic sharing of fingerprint records submitted by federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies. Such fingerprint records are submitted to the FBI usually at the time individuals are booked into a jail, correctional facility or prison. While a fingerprint match may result in ICE issuing a detainer for the subject, often apprehensions take place without the use of a detainer request.
While touted as the centerpiece of ICE's enforcement efforts, Secure Communities is also only one of a number of programs and methods ICE employs to locate and take non-documented immigrants into custody for removal. Compared to overall ICE removals, for example, during the last five years Secure Communities and PEP accounted for only around one out of every four deportations. See Table 1.
This program does make up a much more significant proportion of ICE removals from the interior of the United States. But even here, last year under the Trump Administration it wasn't the fastest growing component. Deportations under other interior programs jumped 70.7 percent during FY 2017 from their FY 2016 levels, while Secure Communities program removals grew by a more modest 18.4 percent.
Further, despite the growth during FY 2017 in interior removals as compared to FY 2016, levels are still substantially below those prevailing under the Secure Communities era of President Obama. Compared to four years ago, for example, ICE interior deportations under Trump were down last year by 38.9 percent. As shown in Table 1, this included 14.1 percent fewer Secure Communities removals, and 74.7 percent fewer interior removals through other ICE programs.
Who Is Now Being Targeted Under Secure Communities
Previously Obama Administration policies called for prioritizing for removal immigrants who had committed particularly serious crimes. Once President Trump assumed the presidency, ICE abolished these priorities and expanded its focus to encompass essentially any immigrants who were present in the United States without papers authorizing them to be in this country.
These newly released case-by-case ICE records include information on the most serious criminal conviction of those removed and allow us to ask the question: Which crimes are now being targeted under Secure Communities? These data were obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University as the result of extensive Freedom of Information efforts, including litigation.
From the data it is evident that this policy change has had a substantial impact on the types of offenses that deported immigrants commonly committed. Comparing the February - October 2017 period with calendar year 2016, none of the offenses with the largest rate of increase in removals involved serious felonies. The top 10 offense categories where Secure Communities removals grew the fastest since President Trump assumed office were generally misdemeanors or petty offenses.
Topping the list in terms of sheer numbers (2,364) were traffic offenses. See Table 2. This category does not include driving under the influence of liquor, and is composed of quite minor violations. The number deported whose most serious crime was just a traffic violation jumped from 1,323 during calendar year 2016 to 2,364 deported during the 9 months after Trump assumed office - a rate of increase of 138 percent.
Next on the fastest growing list in terms of the resulting number of deportees (759) was the catch-all category of "public order crimes." In third place with 377 deportees under Trump were those whose most serious crime was disorderly conduct.
Although fewer in number, the category with the fastest growth was the offense of "flight to avoid prosecution" (up 260%), followed by licensing violations (up 206%), and liquor violations (up 198%).
Other violations on the top-ten fastest growth list were failure to appear, trespassing, possession of drug equipment, and prostitution. See Table 2.
Table 3 at the end of this report includes the complete list of the most serious convictions in Secure Communities deportations, and how these numbers have changed between calendar year 2012 and October 2017.
Updated Web Tool Provides Access to Secure Communities Data
Updated data TRAC has compiled from internal ICE records documenting the operation of the Secure Communities program are now publicly available via an online query tool that accompanies this report. Available are details month-by-month for all Secure Communities removals for each state and county in the country from November 2008 through October 2017.
 See TRAC's November 2017 report. ICE is currently refusing to release any information on how often detainers were issued in recent Secure Communities removals. TRAC has challenged this unlawful withholding in ongoing litigation. See Long and Burnham v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Docket No. 1:2017-cv-01097 (USDC, DC). For further information about this suit also see http://trac.syr.edu/foia/ice/20170608/.
 For simplicity, the terms deportations and removals are used interchangeably in this report. The numbers reported cover the total of ICE removals, voluntary departures and returns.
 To focus upon offenses with sizable numbers, these comparisons covered all offenses where at least 100 individuals had been deported during February 2017 - October 2017.