ICE Secure Communities Removals Falling

Recently released Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removal-by-removal records on Secure Communities (SC) reveal that the number of SC deportations has been trending downward during the past year. As of April 2019—the latest data available—the monthly number of SC removals had fallen to 6,152. This is down from 7,456 in May of 2018. These national trends are shown in Figure 1. The height of each bar reflects the actual number of SC deportations each month, while the superimposed line shows the moving 3-month average that smooths out month-to-month fluctuations.

Figure 1. Overall Secure Community Removals Falling Over Past Year
(Click for larger image)

These latest results are based upon ICE records recently obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. An ongoing lawsuit filed against the agency by TRAC's co- directors is challenging the agency's withholding of additional details on each of these ICE removals.

Since President Trump assumed office, the Secure Communities program has been promoted as essential to implement this administration's agenda for ramped up deportations. The agency contends that "Secure Communities has proven to be one of ICE's most important tools for identifying and removing criminal aliens as well as repeat immigration violators." Originally launched under President George W. Bush in 2008, Secure Communities is an ambitious national program under which millions upon millions of fingerprint records submitted to the FBI by local law enforcement agencies are passed along to ICE. At that point, the immigration agency issues "detainers" for immigrants that ICE wants the local organizations to hold and then turn over to it. Even if a local law enforcement agency has a policy of not cooperating with immigration officials, ICE can use these fingerprint records to alert them to where to look for these individuals and try to arrest them through other methods.

Contrasting Trends in Different Locales

Different communities have adopted different policies regarding cooperation with immigration enforcement officials. Resistance to cooperating with ICE is reflected in a growing number of jurisdictions that have enacted so-called "sanctuary" laws. In contrast, other communities have adopted policies that support immigration enforcement. A growing list of these have entered into cooperative agreements with ICE under its 287g program to permit local law enforcement agencies to perform some immigration enforcement functions themselves.

California and Texas with the largest estimated populations of undocumented immigrants in the country are emblematic of these two opposite paths. As a result, California and Texas present a picture of contrasts in SC removal trends. See Figure 2.

Figure 2. Tale of Two Communities: Trends in Secure Communities Removals for California vs Texas
(Click for larger image)

At one time California had the highest number of SC removals compared to any state in the country. At their peak there were more than 3,000 SC removals per month in that state. This record was achieved back in March of 2011. Since then California has shown a precipitous decline, hitting a low point of just 675 in February of 2015. Numbers slowly increased after the Obama Administration changed its focus and worked at rebuilding trust with local communities under the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). When President Trump assumed office, deportations in California climbed back up to around 1,000 per month. But since August of last year they started falling again. By April of 2019 they were down to just 744 - below the level at the end of the Obama Administration under PEP.


While Texas never reached the heights that California had in SC removals, it has experienced much less change under both presidential administrations. Indeed, there is no clear demarcation in SC removal numbers at the transition between the Obama and the Trump administrations. See earlier Figure 2. For the last year or more, SC removals have been fairly level at about 2,000 per month, slightly lower than the peak reached in the Obama years.

TRAC's online query tool that accompanies this report allows users to examine SC removal trends for each state and county in the country. This tool provides month-by-month details from November 2008 when this program began through April 2019.

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.