ICE arrest of approximately 30 illegal immigrants in N. Alabama sparks conversation

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[Photo Credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP]

Agents from the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) arrested “approximately 30 persons” in North Alabama the last week of August, an ICE spokesperson has confirmed to Alabama Today.

“ICE makes targeted arrests on a daily basis in accordance with its ongoing enforcement activity,” explained Bryan Cox, the Southern Region Communications Director for ICE. “The general premise I’ve seen from some in the area that ICE’s presence in North Alabama is a new development is not accurate. These arrests were made by Alabama-based officers regularly assigned to the area who conduct targeted enforcement actions as part of their everyday duties.”

According to the ICE spokesman, the local field office, which is based in Louisiana and covers a territory spanning Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, is averaging, thus far this year, approximately 200 arrests in any given week.

A local immigrants rights group is calling the arrests held a press conference in Huntsville, Ala. on Thursday titled “Stop Tearing Families Apart,” where they voiced their concerns over the recent arrests. The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ) claims many of the people arrested did not have criminal records.

They said they’ve collected information that  ICE arrested people from Huntsville, Decatur, Athens, Hartselle, many whom of were simply getting ready for work or pumping gas.

“We are for sure clear this is a racial profiling issue,” said ACIJ Executive Director Sarai Portillo.

But ICE says that’s not the case.

“ICE continues to focus its limited resources first and foremost on those who pose the greatest threat to public safety and any suggestions as to ICE engaging in random or indiscriminate enforcement are categorically false,” explained Cox. “ICE does not conduct any type of indiscriminate raids or sweeps that target aliens indiscriminately. The agency’s arrest stats clearly reflect this reality.”

Nationally, 90 percent of all foreign nationals arrested by ICE to date in FY18 either had a criminal conviction, faced a criminal charge, or were already subject to a final order of removal.

In explaining the reasons in which someone facing deportation may not have a criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge though they have been arrested for or suspected of criminal activity ICE noted that decisions of criminal prosecution is up to local prosecutors who when faced with a criminal facing imminent deportation may drop charges in order to allow ICE to expedite the deportation process thus saving the costs associated with incarceration and of trial.

This decision to drop charges by the prosecutor, in which ICE has no say, allows for what some have called the manipulative ability of lawyers and family members of those being deported to claim that their family member has no record and thus pose no threat.

The term “criminal alien” below signifies that an alien has been convicted of a an additional crime in the U.S. beyond their violation of federal immigration law. Sixty-one percent of the non-criminal aliens ICE has arrested in FY18 thus far nevertheless came to ICE’s attention due to criminal charges.

New Orleans (of which Alabama is a part) field office ICE administrative arrest stats: 

  • FY18 (Q1-Q3): 7,584 arrests, 4,478 convicted criminal (59 percent)
  • FY17: 7,968 arrests, 5,059 convicted criminal (64 percent)
  • FY16: 5,174 arrests, 4,347 criminal (84 percent)
  • FY15: 5,244 arrests, 4,385 criminal (84 percent)
  • FY14: 7,429 arrests, 5,504 criminal (74 percent)
  • FY13: 9,115 arrests, 6,370 criminal (70 percent)

ICE national administrative arrest stats:

  • FY18 (Q1-Q3): 119,884 arrests, 79,644 convicted criminal (66 percent)
  • FY17: 143,470 arrests, 105,736 convicted criminal (74 percent)
  • FY16: 110,104 arrests, 94,751 criminal (86 percent)
  • FY15: 119,772 arrests, 101,880 criminal (85 percent)
  • FY14: 183,703 arrests, 134,734 criminal (73 percent)
  • FY13: 232,287 arrests, 168,444 criminal (73 percent)

Watch the ACIJ press conference below: