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75 Percent Of Immigration Raid Arrests Were For Criminal Convictions, DHS Says

A photo released Tuesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows people being arrested during an ICE operation.
Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Updated at 6:25 p.m. ET

Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 680 people in raids across the U.S. last week, approximately three-fourths of whom had prior criminal convictions, according to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

The convictions were for offenses "including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges."

The Department of Homeland Security did not specify how many of the convictions were for the most serious crimes, like homicide and sexual assault; in regional fact sheets, ICE provided more detailed information on only 15 arrested individuals. It's also unclear whether the 75 percent statistic includes more minor crimes than the examples listed.

The raids prompted an outcry from immigrant rights advocates, concerned about the scale and synchronization of the raids — which they described as unusual, despite ICE's characterizations of the operations as "routine" — and by shifts in practice compared with previous ICE operations.

For instance, last week's ICE arrests included "collateral damage," or people who were picked up despite not being targeted in the operations — because, for example, they were in the same place as a person who wastargeted, and did not have documentation.

Individuals swept up in this way are presumably among the quarter of those arrested that Kelly did not identify as having a criminal conviction.

Immigration activists had also expressed concern over what kinds of crimes could lead a person to be a target for deportation. Kelly's statement notes that some of the people arrested had convictions for serious crimes such as homicide and sexual assault, but it's not clear how many of the arrests were for those crimes and how many for crimes such as drunken driving.

President Trump's executive order on the deportation of "criminal aliens" allows a person to be targeted for deportation over anycrime. It's unclear from Kelly's statement whether any lower-level crimes like immigration offenses are included in the 75 percent tally.

Joseph Villela, the director of policy at the immigrant rights group CHIRLA, told NPR on Sunday night that his organization had reports of people being arrested in the raids who would not have been prioritized for deportation before.

"There were individuals that had, first, no criminal conviction — second, maybe a minor conviction — but third, some of them had a previous deportation order and that was what made them a priority," he said. "This is a shift that reflected [President Trump's] executive order."'

Villela said there was a lack of transparency from ICE officials about how many people were affected by the raids, and that at one point CHIRLA's legal team received false information about a client's whereabouts.

He described a "deficit of trust" between advocacy groups and the enforcement agency.

"Forgive us for not believing 100 percent of what [ICE] are saying when in the field ... they were not forthcoming in regards to the real numbers of individuals that were affected," he said.

While Trump has characterized the raids as fulfilling a campaign pledge to deport "criminals" in the country illegally, immigration officials have maintained that the series of actions were just business as usual — in some cases, saying the operations were planned months in advance.

That discrepancy continued on Monday. During a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump praised Kelly and said the raids were fulfilling a campaign promise.

Meanwhile, Kelly characterized the raids as "consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE's Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis."

The Trump administration has also said that in deporting people in the country illegally, the focus is on threats to "national security and public safety."

The statement from Kelly characterized recent arrests using slightly different terms. The 680 individuals arrested "pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation's immigration system," he wrote.

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Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
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