The number of arrests carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers under President Donald Trump has risen by 38 percent.
The figure is based on data of ICE arrests from Jan. 22 to April 29 compared to information for the same period in 2016, USA Today reported.
Trump insisted during the election campaign that his main focus would be on deporting criminals. But the biggest increase in arrests came among those with no criminal record.
Under former President Barack Obama, 92 percent of those arrested between Jan. 22 and April 29, 2016, had criminal records. Under Trump's administration, the same timeframe in 2017 saw that number at 75 percent.
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"I get asked a lot why we arrest somebody that's not a criminal," Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said, according to USA Today. "Those who do enter the country illegally, they do violate the law, that is a criminal act."
Frank Sharry of the immigrant advocacy group America's Voice disagreed: "If we don't call it out and stand up to it, America is moving in the direction of committing a mistake of historic proportions, driving millions of immigrants who are deeply rooted in our country out of the country they now call home."
On Jan. 25, Trump signed an executive order broadening the definition under which undocumented immigrants are considered priorities for deportation. Under Obama, an immigrant convicted of a felony or a series of misdemeanors was considered a priority, but Trump's order expanded this to include anyone charged with a crime, as well as anyone deemed to be a threat to public safety or national security.
Kelly's directive in February enabled ICE officers to arrest anybody they discovered during their raids who was undocumented. Previously, ICE officers were only permitted to detain the individual or persons they were originally searching for.
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"All of those arrested will receive the due process afforded to them under the law," Homan added. "We are a nation of laws, and ignoring laws issued by federal judges undermines our constitutional government."
Some of the tactics employed by ICE officers to detain undocumented immigrants have triggered protests.
Jose Flores, a 37-year-old worker from Honduras, was arrested by ICE agents after filing a workers' compensation claim against his employer. Flores fell off a ladder at the end of March and broke a bone in his leg.
An attorney for Flores suspects that his employer may have tipped off ICE about his immigration status. According to Stacie Sobosik, the company offered to assist Flores' family by giving him money and set up a meeting to hand it over.
"The employer told this worker where to be, at exactly what time, and Immigration was waiting," Sobosik told WBUR.
Tara Construction, the company involved, refused to comment on the incident. ICE also declined to discuss the specific case.
Sources: USA Today, WBUR / Photo credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Wikimedia Commons