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Last year, arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jumped by 40 percent, The Washington Post reported Monday, an increase sparked by President Trump’s vow to enforce hard-line immigration policy. But the arrests, made as a precursor to deportation, didn’t affect every category of immigrant the same way.


ICE arrested 105,736 immigrants who have some criminal record other than being in the country illegally, a small bump compared to the previous year. But the agency also arrested 37,734 immigrants who have never been convicted of any crime — not even driving without a license — which is more than double the number from 2016!

The people who are being deported pursuant to these arrests are not violent people. They are normal people, probably about as law-abiding as you or I in this overcriminalized age. Yes, they’re in the U.S. illegally, but that is typically a civil violation, not a crime, which puts it in the same category as many traffic tickets.

I’ve covered some of stories about this sort of deportation here at Rare. There was the New Jersey couple deported after three decades in America, forced to leave behind their three kids, one still in high school, as well as their home and landscaping business. And the Connecticut man shipped back to Guatemala a week ago. He was forced to abandon his American wife and their two young children all over a single missed court date he never knew he had, because the court sent its summons to the wrong name and address.

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The Post’s report on these national stats shares a few more examples:

Virginia mother was sent back to El Salvador in June after her 11 years in the United States unraveled because of a traffic stop. … And an immigration activist in New York, Ravi Ragbir, was detained in January in a case that brought ICE a scathing rebuke from a federal judge.

‘It ought not to be — and it has never before been — that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust,’ said U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest, reading her opinion in court before ordering ICE to release Ragbir. ‘We are not that country,’ she said.

As I’ve asked about these individual cases, why is arresting these 37,734 people a good idea? Even if you support punishing these people because you value rule of law (which I do, though I question the justice of our present immigration policy), why arrest and deportation? Wouldn’t a fine or community service be far more appropriate given the circumstances?

How does breaking up families help anything? It’s expensive, disruptive, and disproportionate, especially for immigrants whose only record is one of contribution to their respective communities here in the United States.

ICE is breaking up families to arrest and deport even more people with no criminal record AP Photo/Mark Avery/File
Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Rare, weekend editor at The Week, and a fellow at Defense Priorities. You can find more of her work at www.bonniekristian.com or follow her on Twitter @bonniekristian
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