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Vice President Mike Pence countered Democratic attacks of an immigration agency by highlighting the agency’s enforcement success.
Some Democrats have called for restructuring or abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, claiming it tears apart families and that it has lost its ability to effectively do its job under President Donald Trump.
During a trip to Missouri to tout the Trump administration’s tax cuts, Pence chose to highlight ICE’s arrest and deportations in 2017 as signs of its effectiveness.
"Last year alone, I’m proud to report to you that ICE agents removed more than 226,000 illegal immigrants from our country," Pence said. "In fact, they arrested more than 127,000 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions or facing charges of breaking our nation's laws, including ICE removed nearly 5,000 gang members from our streets."
Readers asked us to verify Pence’s data. We found that he accurately cited ICE numbers. But data also showed that the most common charges and convictions were for traffic offenses, immigration, and "dangerous drugs." Pence’s wording could leave the wrong impression that those criminal convictions were for more serious offenses.
At least 226,119 people were deported by ICE in fiscal year 2017, according to the agency. (Fiscal year 2017 started Oct. 1, 2016, so it included nearly four months of the Obama administration.)
ICE deported more people the year before, at 240,255. But ICE said the proportion of removals due to ICE arrests was greater in 2017 than in 2016. ICE’s overall removal numbers account for people who were arrested by ICE inside of the country and people apprehended at the border and turned over to ICE for removal.
Pence’s number of people arrested by ICE checks out with the agency’s data — of 143,470 administrative arrests, nearly 128,000 had criminal convictions or pending criminal charges.
Administrative arrests are arrests of people who were either present in the country illegally or had somehow violated the terms of their entry/status, an ICE spokeswoman said.
Here’s a breakdown of those arrests:
• Criminal convictions: 105,736
• Pending criminal charges: 22,256
• No known criminal charges or convictions: 15,478
A criminal conviction or charge for breaking an American law covers a broad category. The majority stemmed from non-violent offenses.
The most common convictions and charges were for immigration, drugs, and traffic offenses, including DUI. Among other offenses ICE listed were homicide, "public peace," "general crimes,"and "liquor."
Pence also said nearly 5,000 gang members had been removed. ICE in fiscal year 2017 deported 5,396 gang members. ICE began tracking gang removals in fiscal year 2014, but does not track removals by specific gang affiliation.
Pence’s numbers about ICE’s operations check out.
So we rate his statement True.
Twitter, @VP tweet, July 19, 2018
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Fiscal Year 2017 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report, 2017
Email interview, VP Mike Pence press secretary, July 20, 2018
Email interview, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement press office, July 23, 2018
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