Tag: ICE

The Annual Death Rate in Immigration Detention Rose in 2017 and Fell in 2018

Since the Trump Administration announced a punitive immigration detention policy in 2018 that separated families, reports have surfaced of immigrants who have died while in detention or shortly after being released to medical facilities for treatment.  It’s understandable why news consumers and suppliers are interested in deaths in detention facilities given the Trump Administration’s actions on this issue, but the distinct impression from reading all of these stories is that being detained is more dangerous than ever. 

To check whether this was true or if this impression was just an artifact of cognitive bias, I decided to estimate the annual death rate in immigration detention in the United States.  There are two primary pieces of data required to calculate this rate: The number of people in detention each year and the number of deaths.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) runs all of the detention facilities and they provide the number of deaths and admissionsThe American Immigration Law Association provides some more recent numbers of deaths in detention, but I only include those that ICE also counts.  The admissions into ICE detention facilities variable is the proper one to use as it is closer to the number of unique individuals who were present in a detention facility in each year.  The numbers for both variables run through the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018.

The FY2018 death rate in ICE immigration detention was 2.3 per 100,000 detainees, a 39 percent drop relative to the rate for FY2017.  That’s good news, but the improvement in FY2018 follows on a deterioration in FY2017 from FY2016.  In FY2017, the death rate per 100,000 detainees increased by 31 percent relative to FY2016.  In other words, the chance of dying in detention rose in FY2017 – but the death rate began to rise in FY2015 from a low point of 1.4 per 100,000 in FY2014 in an uninterrupted trend.  The largest percentage increases during this time was a 60 percent jump from FY2014 to FY2015.  The Trump Administration inherited an ICE detention system where the death rate was rising, presided over a year when the death rate continued to rise, and then saw it fall by 32 percent in FY2018.  

Table 1: Deaths per 100,000 Detainees, By Year

Figure 1 shows the total number of ICE detentions and the total number of deaths in custody.  The absolute number and rates of death in ICE detention were highest during the George W. Bush administration at 6.4 per 100,000 per year.  Those death rates fell rapidly from 2004, the first full year when ICE was in operation, from 11.9 per 100,000 detainees to 2.9 per 100,000 detainees in 2008.  The death rate rose 26 percent during the first year of the Obama Administration in 2009, then started falling again the next year with an average annual death rate of 2.3 per 100,000 detainees during his entire presidency.  We only have data for two years of the Trump administration where the annual death rate is 2.9 percent – almost identical to that of the first two years of the Obama Administration. 

Copy: Table 1: Deaths per 100,000 Detainees, By Year

This excellent study of death rates in ICE detention gives three reasons for why death rates fell so much during the Bush years and remained low thereafter.  The first is that the length of time that immigrants spent in detention fell, which means there was less opportunity for each individual to die even though more were in detention.  The second was that ICE increasingly relied on Secure Communities and local law enforcement to first arrest illegal immigrants and then transfer them to ICE.  Local law enforcement agencies typically provided any healthcare that the immigrants needed before being transferred to ICE or, tragically, many of them died in local law enforcement custody.  The third is that ICE medical policies and practices improved during this time. 

Although it may seem like there is a major spike in deaths in immigration detention, and the FY2019 could show that (although that is extremely unlikely), that is simply not true.  Although there was an increase in death rates in FY2017, they were down considerably in FY2018 and show all indication of falling further in FY2019.

President Trump Isn’t Breaking Immigration Arrest Records

President Trump has made no secret about his intentions to deport illegal immigrants. His statements as well as administrative actions to remove certain guidelines that focused enforcement efforts on criminals has understandably caused a lot of concern among illegal immigrants, their American families, and those concerned with their plight. They should take comfort that the Trump administration’s efforts to boost arrests, the necessary precursor to a deportation, are stymied by limited local and state law enforcement cooperation with the federal government when it comes to identifying illegal immigrants.

Recently released data on the number of arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shows that they are arresting many fewer illegal immigrants under Trump’s administration than under President Obama’s, at least through June of 2018.  During the first full 17 months of the Obama administration, from February 2009 through June 2010, ICE arrested 437,671 illegal immigrants.  For the same first full 17 months of the Trump administration, ICE arrested 226,138 illegal immigrants, about half the number arrested during the same period in Obama’s administration.

Relative to the last full month of the previous administrations, the number of ICE arrests under Trump is up by a whopping 37 percent (Figure 1).  Over the same time, President Obama’s ICE was arresting 25 percent more people than under the last full month of the Bush administration, quite a significant increase on its own.  The increase under Trump is larger as a percentage because it started from a low base, but the increase in the number of arrests under Obama was larger.  For instance, the number of arrests under Obama was 5,803 greater in June 2010 than in December of 2008.  At the same point in the Trump administration in June of 2018, the number of arrests was up 8,965 over December 2016.

Figure 1: ICE Arrests by President

There are two broad categories of arrests by the ICE.  The first is called custodial arrests, which is when ICE picks up an illegal immigrant arrested by another law enforcement agency such as state or local police departments.  The second is called ICE arrests, which is when ICE itself arrests illegal immigrants on the streets.  Figure 2 shows that the number of custodial arrests have fallen dramatically since October 2008 while the number of ICE arrests has stayed relatively constant.  This means that local and state non-cooperation with ICE works to reduce the number of ICE arrests as between 70 percent and 90 percent of those arrests are custodial over the entire time.

Figure 2: ICE Arrests by Type of Arrest

Some states, like Texas, are fully cooperating with ICE when it comes to immigration enforcement while others like California are resisting mightily.  In Texas, there were 3,963 ICE arrests in May 2018 compared to 2,584 in December 2016, a 53 percent increase.  In California, there were 1,587 ICE arrests in May 2018 compared to 1,356 in December 2016, a 17 percent increase.  ICE is more active everywhere in the country, in sanctuary states and non-sanctuary states, but the difference is stark across such jurisdictions. 

The federal government under Presidents Bush and Obama convinced virtually every locality in the United States to sign up for the Secure Communities program that essentially turned over the vast majority of the arrested illegal immigrants to ICE for deportation.  Since President Obama was a Democrat, there was little initial political opposition to the massive increase in states and localities cooperating with the feds via Secure Communities – especially in Democratically controlled states with large numbers of illegal immigrants.  However, political reluctance to cooperate via Secure Communities built rapidly.  In 2011 Massachusetts, Illinois and New York requested to opt out of the program.  States like California then limited statewide cooperation with ICE and then President Obama replaced Secure Communities with a less punitive version called the Priority Enforcement Program that targeted criminals, which was in effect from 2015 to 2017.  Today, most states and localities with large numbers of illegal immigrants are not cooperating with President Trump’s ICE nearly as much as they cooperated with President Obama’s ICE – which is preventing Trump from arresting and, eventually, deporting large numbers of illegal immigrants.

There are other, lesser reasons why the Trump administration is unlikely to reach President Obama’s deportation record.  One is bureaucratic incompetence in the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and other executive branch chaos that has so far prevented an orderly and organized deployment of law enforcement resources.  As a partial result of those administrative problems, they are incapable of convincing states and localities to enforce federal immigration laws.  Another reason is that illegal immigrants in 2018 are savvier than they were in the past, are better able to avoid law enforcement, and the few who were criminals were deported over the years, fewer new illegal immigrants have taken their place, and those remaining are less likely to come into contact with law enforcement. 

State and local government reluctance to enforce federal immigration laws and cooperate with the Trump administration has limited its ability to arrest and, eventually, deport large numbers of illegal immigrants.  At the current rate, ICE under the Trump administration will be able to arrest about half a million fewer illegal immigrants relative to the Obama administration even if President Trump serves two full terms.  Those who are dispirited by the Trump administration’s efforts to deport large numbers of otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants should take some solace that their efforts to block full local and state cooperation with ICE is bearing fruit.

ICE Scraps Plans For “Extreme Vetting” Prediction Tech

During his presidential campaign Donald Trump proposed the “extreme vetting” of immigrants. Civil libertarians criticized the proposal, not least because the Extreme Vetting Initiative mandated by one of President Trump’s first executive orders sought technology that would use machine learning to determine whether visa applicants would be likely to contribute to society and the national interest. Fortunately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – is no longer pursuing this vetting technology.

In January 2017 President Trump issued Executive Order 13769, which stated in part (emphasis mine):

Sec. 4. Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs. (a) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall implement a program, as part of the adjudication process for immigration benefits, to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission. This program will include the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as […] a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.

The Extreme Vetting Initiative tasked with implementing (among things) this feature of Trump’s executive order, included the following in its statement of objectives:

ICE must develop processes that determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society as well as their ability to contribute to national interests in order to meet the EOs outlined by the President.

A background document on the initiative outlined requirements, including the exploitation of publicly available information found on blogs, social media, academic websites, and other online sources. The same backgrounder went on to state that the goal was for the initiative to generate 10,000 investigatory leads each year.

Earlier this year dozens of computer scientists, mathematicians, and engineers wrote a letter to then-Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, outlining the numerous issued associated with the Extreme Vetting Initiative. As I noted in November last year, the letter highlighted that ICE’s proposal would likely be discriminatory as well as unreliable. From the letter:

According to its Statement of Objectives, the Extreme Vetting Initiative seeks to make “determinations via automation” about whether an individual will become a “positively contributing member of society” and will “contribute to the national interests.” As far as we are aware, neither the federal government nor anyone else has defined, much less attempted to quantify, these characteristics. Algorithms designed to predict these undefined qualities could be used to arbitrarily flag groups of immigrants under a veneer of objectivity.

Inevitably, because these characteristics are difficult (if not impossible) to define and measure, any algorithm will depend on “proxies” that are more easily observed and may bear little or no relationship to the characteristics of interest. For example, developers could stipulate that a Facebook post criticizing U.S. foreign policy would identify a visa applicant as a threat to national interests. They could also treat income as a proxy for a person’s contributions to society, despite the fact that financial compensation fails to adequately capture people’s roles in their communities or the economy.

For more information on the Extreme Vetting Initiative, including original ICE documents, visit the Brennan Center for Justice’s resource page.

ICE Doesn’t Belong in the Intelligence Community

Some officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are reportedly looking into the agency joining the Intelligence Community (IC). Making ICE, which is responsible to deportations, a member of the IC would be a mistake, putting our civil liberties at risk by giving the agency increased access to vast troves of information not related to immigration enforcement.

ICE officials have been pushing for this change since the Obama administration, but the close relationship between intelligence agencies and immigration enforcement officials is nothing new. Almost one hundred years ago, one of the most notorious set of deportations in American history occurred, thanks in large part to domestic law enforcement acting like a spy agency.

In 1919 followers of the Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani sent mail bombs to dozens of prominent public figures, including Attorney General Mitchell Palmer. Although the wannabe assassins failed to kill any of their intended targets, the bombings sparked the United States’ first “Red Scare.”

Trump Administration Expands Interior Immigration Enforcement

Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report detailing deportations (henceforth “removals”) conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the fiscal year of 2017.  This post presents data on removals in historical context combined with information from Pew and the Center for Migration Studies

ICE deported 81,603 illegal immigrants from the interior of the United States in 2017, up from 65,332 in 2016.  Removals from the interior peaked during the Obama administration in 2011 at 237,941 (Figure 1).  ICE also removed large numbers of people apprehended at the border.  Since 2012, border removals have outnumbered those from the interior of the United States.

Figure 1

Interior and Border Removals by ICE, 2008-2017

 

Source: Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Obama administration removed 1,242,486 from the interior of the United States during its full eight years, averaging 155,311 removals per year.  Data from the earlier Bush administration are more speculative but they show more deportations under Obama than under Bush.    

The Trump Administration Is Temporarily Deporting Fewer People. Expect an Increase Soon

The Obama administration ramped-up and sustained interior immigration enforcement operations through the end of FY2013, which was the longest such period of sustained enforcement in U.S. history. President Obama inherited an expanding immigration enforcement apparatus and built on it further by making “Secure Communities” mandatory in near every county of the United States, appointing immigration enforcer and former-Arizona governor Janet Napolitano as the head of DHS, and treating Central American asylum-seekers in a heartless fashion.     

Immigration restrictionist groups and some of President Obama’s supporters hid or excused the fact that President Obama’s interior enforcement operations were so extensive. The restrictionists argued that President Obama’s deportation numbers were puffed up to include those captured at the border. Their argument contained just enough truth to pass a 10-second investigation but ignored the fact that ICE removals from the interior of the United States were higher for a longer period under Obama than for any other President (Figure 1). 

Figure 1

ICE Removals from the Interior of the United States

 

Source: ICE FOIA Library.

Unpublished ICE Memo Allows Arrests of Non-Criminal Immigrants Who Trump Did Not Prioritize

A new document received by ProPublica under a Freedom of Information Act request demonstrates that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has adopted a policy that conflicts with both President Trump’s executive order (EO) and public Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines on immigration enforcement. I commented for the story, which you can read here.

The bottom line is that the memo shows that for months, ICE has been requiring agents to arrest all unauthorized immigrants whom they “encounter,” regardless of whether they are otherwise priorities for removal. Previously, ICE had admitted that it sometimes arrests non-prioritized immigrants, but this memo goes much further, requiring them to do so in all cases. This directly contradicts President Trump’s statements about targeting criminal aliens, the text of his EO which creates priorities for removal, and Secretary John Kelly’s department-wide DHS memo that requires that agents be able to retain their discretion over arrests and mandates that they follow the department’s removal priorities when arresting people that they “encounter.”