PHOENIX — The number of arrests made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in 2017 have increased nearly 15 percent in the Phoenix area, compared to 2016.
Nearly 1,800 people who are undocumented or suspected of being undocumented were arrested in the Phoenix area this year, an increase of about 13 percent from the same time last year.
More than half of those arrested had a criminal record.
The trend of an increasing number of undocumented immigrants who were arrested in 2017 has been seen nationwide, as well.
Across the country, ICE agents have arrested more than 41,000 people in the first four months of 2016. That’s an increase of about 38 percent over the same time last year.
Three-quarters of those arrested had criminal convictions, which include traffic violations and other minor offenses.
Ayensa Millan, a Phoenix-based immigration attorney, said President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration have led to the surge in arrests.
In January, Trump signed an executive order to expand the categories of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation.
“A nation without borders is not a nation,” Trump said at the time. “Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders.”
Today, “anyone with any type of criminal record is a removal and an enforcement priority,” Millan said. “This may even be someone driving with a suspended license because that is, under Arizona law, a crime.”
Under the Obama administration, ICE prioritized the removal of people with serious criminal convictions, including drug trafficking, domestic violence, and driving under the influence.
ICE agents also could exercise prosecutorial discretion and decide not to deport certain individuals based on a number of factors, including the length of stay in the U.S. and whether the person had U.S.-born children.
“Now, unfortunately, anyone that comes into contact with any immigration agency is immediately detained and placed in removal proceedings simply because they are in this country legally,” Millan said.
In April, data obtained by The Washington Post found that the number of immigrant arrests made in the Phoenix area had climbed in 2017 compared to 2016.
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