Counties Where ICE Arrests Concentrate

More than a quarter (28%) of recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests of immigrants living and working in communities across America took place in just ten counties in the United States, along with their immediate surrounding locales. Fully half of all such arrests by ICE occurred in just 24 counties out of the nearly 3,200 counties across the country. These arrests took place during the eight-month period from October 2017 through May 2018.

The top ten counties with the most so-called "ICE community arrests" are shown in Figure 1. Three out of ten of these counties were located in California, while the remaining seven were widely dispersed in other states. (For the top 25 counties, see Table 2 at the end of this report.)

Figure 1. Top 10 Counties/Surrounding Locales Where Most ICE Community Arrests Occurred,
FY 2018 (October 2017 - May 2018)

The county with the most arrests was San Bernardino County, California. In second place was DeKalb County, Georgia, where Atlanta is located. New York County, New York, and surrounding locales was in third place. Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located was in fourth place, followed by San Diego County, California, in fifth place.

Rounding out the top ten list were: Los Angeles County, California in sixth place. Essex County where Newark, New Jersey, is located was seventh. Cook County where Chicago, Illinois is located took the eighth spot. Maricopa County where Phoenix, Arizona is found was in ninth place, followed by Miami-Dade County, Florida in tenth.

Second Edition of ICE Arrests App Released

Simultaneously released with this report is the second edition of TRAC's "ICE Arrests" app. The state and county data available have been extended to cover the location of ICE arrests through May 2018.

Arrest locale was not obtained from ICE as the agency contends it does not track the state or county where the apprehension occurred. Painstaking research by TRAC using a mosaic of records obtained from a range of sources, including those derived from hundreds of separate FOIA requests over the span of several years, has allowed TRAC to independently identify the state and county where most arrests occurred. Sometimes the county listed includes closely surrounding areas where it was not possible to further isolate the arrest location.


This research initiative identifying arrest locations has been made possible through grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Kresge Foundation. TRAC's goal is to steadily extend this information series to the over 2 million past ICE arrests the Center has collected information on, while updating the series as more ICE arrests occur and information can be compiled.

The free online query tool allows users to examine ICE arrest activity along 15 separate dimensions. In addition to when and where each arrest occurred, information has been compiled providing details on how the arrest occurred. These details are combined with the characteristics of the individuals who were targeted, as well as the immigration violation they were charged with. For cases that ICE has closed, the final outcome recorded by ICE for each individual is also tracked.

Where Law Enforcement Agencies Transfer Custody to ICE

In addition to ICE community arrests during the first eight months of FY 2018, law enforcement agencies in 1,467 counties transferred custody of immigrants to ICE. See Table1. These included transfers from state and federal prisons where immigrants had been serving their prison sentences after conviction, as well as from county and city jails where the individuals may have been simply fingerprinted and booked into custody and never charged with any crime.

Most counties where immigrants were detained by ICE occurred solely through these custody transfers. In contrast, ICE arrested immigrants living or working out in the community in just 574 counties. These community arrests covered just 38 percent of the total of 1,528 counties where ICE arrests took place[1].

Table 1. Counties Where ICE Arrests Occured, October 2017 - May 2018
  Number of Counties Number of Arrests
Number of Counties Number of Arrests
Counties in U.S. 3,142
Counties with ICE Arrests
ICE Arrests Out in the Community 574 27,183
ICE Assumes Custody from Another Law Enforcement Agency 1,467 79,731
All ICE Interior Arrests 1,528 106,914

The line-up of the top counties where custody transfers versus community arrests occurred were often different. Table 2 displays the top 25 counties where ICE assumed custody of immigrants from another law enforcement agency so far this fiscal year, in contrast to the top 25 counties where community arrests occurred.

As might be expected, counties that have large prison or jail facilities topped the custody-transfer list. And just one in six of these 1,467 counties accounted for fully 90 percent of all custody transfers to ICE during this eight-month period.

This also meant that for most facilities the act of turning a detainee over to ICE was a relatively rare event. For example, just a single person was transferred to ICE custody by law enforcement agencies in 318 counties during this eight-month period, while the median number of immigrants transferred to ICE custody among all 1,467 counties was just 5 immigrants.

In addition to the top-25 counties listed below in Table 2, the entire list of counties and the month-by-month figures on ICE arrests by type can be viewed in the updated ICE Arrest app.

Table 2. Top 25 Counties/Surrounding Locales Where ICE Arrests Ocurred During October 2017 - May 2018
Total ICE Arrests - All Sources* ICE Arrests Out in Community
Top 25 Counties Number Rank Top 25 Counties Number Rank
Harris County, TX 6,265 1 San Bernardino County, CA 982 1
San Diego County, CA 4,070 2 DeKalb County, GA 931 2
Maricopa County, AZ 3,852 3 New York County, NY 887 3
Dallas County, TX 3,729 4 Harris County, TX 835 4
Tom Green County, TX 2,035 5 San Diego County, CA 809 5
Los Angeles County, CA 1,944 6 Los Angeles County, CA 687 6
San Bernardino County, CA 1,871 7 Essex County, NJ 676 7
Walker County, TX 1,762 8 Cook County, IL 656 8
DeKalb County, GA 1,733 9 Maricopa County, AZ 647 9
Cameron County, TX 1,568 10 Miami-Dade County, FL 620 10
Bexar County, TX 1,558 11 Suffolk County, MA 592 11
Miami-Dade County, FL 1,513 12 Jefferson County, KY 556 12
Gwinnett County, GA 1,462 13 York County, PA 523 13
Clark County, NV 1,373 14 Wayne County, MI 492 14
Garza County, TX 1,348 15 Philadelphia County, PA 488 15
Cook County, IL 1,334 16 King County, WA 463 16
Kern County, CA 1,235 17 Salt Lake County, UT 425 17
Travis County, TX 1,161 18 Dallas County, TX 405 18
New York County, NY 1,113 19 Franklin County, OH 394 19
Essex County, NJ 1,026 20 Ramsey County, MN 363 20
Oklahoma County, OK 898 21 Marion County, IN 339 21
Frio County, TX 882 22 Martin County, FL 320 22
Caddo County, OK 879 23 Jefferson County, AL 302 23
Mecklenburg County, NC 840 24 Mecklenburg County, NC 283 24
Suffolk County, MA 805 25 Kern County, CA 282 25
* updated 10/26/2018


[1] For a further discussion of these two contrasting types of arrests, see TRAC's earlier report at:

TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact or call 315-443-3563.