Earlier this year, Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Clearinghouse (TRAC) released data obtained from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding all “interior arrests” carried out by the agency from October 2014 to May 2018. This information is particularly important for those of us concerned about immigrant rights in our communities, for it reveals a diversity of tactics used by federal, state, and local agents to investigate and enforce immigration law. UWCHR undergraduate student researcher Marí Ramirez and graduate student researcher Francisca Gómez Baeza took a deep dive into the data to see what it reveals about pathways to deportation in Washington state.
Among other findings, the data shows that almost half of the reported 7,139 ICE arrests in Washington state during this period involve collaboration with local jails. Nearly a quarter of those arrested via jails had no criminal conviction, and others were convicted of minor crimes such as traffic offenses.
The data also shows a high rate of at-large arrests in King County, which has the state’s lowest rate of arrest via collaboration with jails. This suggests that while “sanctuary” policies restricting ICE access to jails work, ICE adapts by carrying out more arrests in the community.
Additionally, the data underscores the need for greater transparency and accountability by ICE about its activities. According to TRAC, “[ICE] contends it doesn’t track the state or county where the apprehension occurred.” As a result, TRAC researchers independently identified the location of most arrests, but in some cases it was not possible to pinpoint the arrest location. It is important to note that apparent trends derived from this data may be obscured by this lack of transparency by ICE.
Pathways to deportation
Nationwide, ICE arrests spiked right after Donald Trump took office in January 2017, though they subsequently declined to levels only slightly higher than those seen during the Obama period. This same pattern is evident in Washington state as a whole, with one exception.
In Benton County, ICE arrests have climbed dramatically in recent years, from 74 in fiscal year 2015 to 192 in fiscal year 2017. The data shows this is due to the growing collaboration between ICE and the local jail, since the number of at-large arrests has not increased outside a spike in July 2016, which suggests a specific enforcement action (raid) at that time.
What’s more, among the Washington counties with the largest per capita percentage of ICE arrests—the top six per capita were Franklin, Yakima, Grant, Chelan, Benton, and King—we see some important variations:
Figure 1: Washington State ICE Arrests per Capita
Table 1: Washington State ICE Arrests per Capita, and % Arrested via CAP Local Incarceration (Top 6 Counties)
|ICE Arrests, per Capita (2017 census estimate)
|Total Number of ICE Arrests
|Percentage Arrested via Local Jails (“CAP Local Incarceration”)
|Of Those Arrested by ICE in Jails, Percent with No Criminal Conviction
|Data: TRAC Immigration, 2018; US Census 2017 population estimate
To find out where your county stands, see our full table of ICE Arrests per Capita in Washington state. Counties not represented in this table had no ICE arrests reported in the data released to TRAC. See here for TRAC’s explanation of how arrest locations were determined.
Local state jails collaborate closely with ICE’s Criminal Alien Program
In Washington, almost half of all ICE arrests—47 percent—involve local jails via ICE’s Criminal Alien Program (CAP) (arrests categorized as “CAP Local Incarceration” in the TRAC dataset). This compares to almost 37 percent nationwide.
Yet almost a quarter of those apprehended through Washington jails had never been convicted of any crime, and many others had only misdemeanors like traffic violations on their record. Still others had only immigration-related crimes. See the table below for a breakdown of the top five “Most Serious Criminal Conviction” categories for individuals arrested by ICE via local jails.
Table 2: Washington State ICE Arrests via CAP Local Incarceration, Top 5 Most Serious Criminal Criminal Conviction Categories
|Most Serious Criminal Conviction
|Driving Under Influence Liquor
|Data: TRAC Immigration, 2018
High rate of community ICE arrests in King County “sanctuary” jurisdiction
While King County still holds the sixth highest arrest rate in the state—and this is per capita data, meaning it’s weighted for population—Table 1 reflects important differences between the way those arrests happen in King County compared to elsewhere. In King County, only 16.6 percent of ICE arrests occurred via local jails, the lowest rate statewide.
This is likely because King County’s immigrant-friendly policies require ICE to get a judicial warrant to access non-public parts of King County’s property or databases; to obtain a warrant, ICE must demonstrate probable cause of criminal activity, something that is much more difficult to do with noncriminals. As a result, ICE gains access to fewer non-criminals through King County jail than through other jails in our state.
However, perhaps as a result of these policies, in King County ICE apprehends many more immigrants at large in the community, with more than 2000 arrests categorized as “Located”, “Non-Custodial Arrest”, or “Probation and Parole” in the TRAC dataset. A combined 58.6 percent of arrests occur in this manner in King County, one of the highest rates among counties for which data is available (compared to 36.3 percent statewide).
Of at-large arrests in King County, 16.8 percent of those apprehended in non-custodial arrests, and 31.1 percent of those located in the community lack criminal convictions.
Public safety, or community harm?
When ICE releases its annual Enforcement and Removals Report, it presents a picture of operations that target dangerous criminals. The most recent report describes the agency as “identif[ying], arrest[ing], and remov[ing] aliens who present a danger to national security or a threat to public safety, or who otherwise undermine border control and the integrity of the U.S. immigration system.” The same logic is used to encourage local and state law enforcement agencies to collaborate in ICE’s work as part of their commitment to public safety.
Yet in many cases, this data shows that many of those swept up in ICE enforcement have no criminal convictions, or have committed only minor offenses. This means that these actions have no public safety benefit. Local law enforcement agencies should reconsider whether the benefits of such actions outweigh the harm caused to communities, including the families of those detained and deported.
Correction: This post was originally published with incorrect population data for Franklin County. The post text, figures, and tables have been updated with the correct data reflecting 2017 population estimates. We regret the error in the original post.