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October 27, 2019

Fact-Check: Durbin Mostly on Track with Claim on Illinois Deportations
By Kiannah Sepeda-Miller

At a Senate hearing on a bill aimed at local governments that limit their cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin criticized the agency for not focusing its resources on immigrants who pose a threat to public safety. “You’re not going after dangerous people, you’re going after people who are here undocumented,” Durbin told the agency’s associate director of enforcement and removal operations. “I can tell you the statistics in Illinois, where it turns out that fewer than 20% of those actually deported have been charged with any serious crime.” Is Durbin correct that less than a quarter of immigrants deported from Illinois have serious criminal charges in their background? When asked to provide support for the statement, a spokesperson for the senator pointed to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, which maintains figures on the number of individuals who departed from a given state at the time of their deportation and provides the classification for their most serious criminal conviction, if any was listed by ICE. In the first 11 months of the 2018 fiscal year, 853 individuals were deported out of Illinois, 160 of whom were classified as having as having serious criminal convictions, according to TRAC’s data, which it obtains via public records requests from ICE. The agency classifies offense codes into three levels, the most serious of which covers what it considers “aggravated felonies,” a list of crimes laid out in federal immigration law that has expanded over the years and includes both violent and non-violent offenses. That amounts to less than 20% of total deportations from Illinois, as Durbin claimed. But the data has some limitations. While TRAC’s director, Susan Long, pointed us to the same dataset as Durbin, she added an important caveat. “How ‘Illinois’ deportations are defined, as well as what is considered ‘charged with any serious crime’ will make a difference,” she said.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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