This report first appeared in Injustice Watch.
Federal officials are overstating how many non-citizens have been deported through a controversial program revived by the Trump administration, a new report published this week contends.
The report by Syracuse University researchers states that 10,893 non-citizens who were convicted of crimes in the United States were deported from January 25 through the end of March – in contrast to the 43,300 deportations under the program that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports on its website. Susan Long, co-director of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, who oversaw the research based on public records obtained from ICE, said she was unable to find an explanation for the discrepancy.
“It looks like it’s made up,” Long said of the number touted by federal officials.
An ICE spokesperson failed to respond to a request for an explanation from Injustice Watch.
At issue is the Secure Community program, which provides ICE with fingerprint data on immigrants arrested by local law enforcement agencies. ICE then issues detainers requesting that the local law enforcement agencies hold the prisoners whom they suspect are in the United States illegally.
The program began under George W. Bush and was expanded during the Obama administration; but was suspended after a slew of lawsuits contended the government lacked the right to order local police to hold suspects absent a judicial order.
Days after the new administration took office, President Donald Trump signed an order restarting the program, which then-press secretary Sean Spicer called “popular and successful.”
The Secure Communities program is a flashpoint in the public debate over immigration enforcement, with many city and county governments insisting through “sanctuary city” ordinances they will not cooperate with requests to detain immigrants in their custody on behalf of ICE. Meanwhile, the agency and the administration have touted the use of detainer requests as essential for the federal government to arrest and deport criminals.
But the report shows arresting immigrants through detainer requests contributes a small number of cases to all the federal agency’s deportations. Based on the latest available data in 2015, researchers found that out of all ICE’s cases that end in deportation monthly, only about one percent of them were achieved through a detainer request made through the Secure Communities program.
The rest, Long said, were done through other means: for example, ICE could have identified the immigrants through the fingerprint database but without involving the local law enforcement in detaining immigrants, immigrants could have been turned over to ICE for deportation after being arrested at the U.S. border, or ICE could have arrested the immigrants on their own.