|(03 Apr 2020)
The latest available data indicate that most civil immigrant detainees held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) do not have a single criminal conviction. In March 2020, in fact, more than six out of ten (61.2%) had no conviction, not even for a minor petty offense.
The number of ICE detainees with a criminal conviction peaked in October of 2017 at less than 20,000, then declined steadily to less than 15,000 during each of the past five months (November 2019 through March 2020).
The latest detailed case-by-case records obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University also reveal that even among immigrant detainees who have a conviction, few of these convictions are for what ICE labels as serious crimes where individuals are thought to pose a threat to public safety. Just one in ten (10.7%) detainees, less than 6,000 detainees nationwide, have a serious criminal conviction on record as of July 2019-a five-year low.
TRAC also found that the proportion of detainees with criminal records varies widely across ICE's nationwide network of detention facilities. In some of ICE's facilities, such as family detention centers, 100 percent of detainees had no criminal conviction of any kind. Others, such as Clinton County Correction Facility in Pennsylvania and the Northern Oregon Correctional Facility in Wasco County in Oregon, nearly every detainee had some type of criminal conviction.
In light of new questions about how to manage detention during the coronavirus pandemic, these findings take on new importance. The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has had a sudden and profound impact on nearly all aspects of life in the United States, and raised significant questions about how ICE should respond to the risk to non-citizens in civil detention centers. ICE has not directly addressed if or how it would use its discretion to release current detainees who do not fall under mandatory detention guidelines, but the agency's use of discretion in decisions about arrest and detention has long been influenced by immigrants' criminal histories. TRAC's report provides insight into the number of detainees potentially affected by ICE's approach to detention management at this challenging time.
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