Austin ICE arrests highest percentage of non-criminals nationwide

Hundreds gather in North Austin to protest the recent arrests made by ICE Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (KXAN Photo / Paul Shelton)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — New information is showing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations in Austin and San Antonio arrested the highest percentage of non-criminals than any other regions nationwide.

Earlier this month, 51 people were arrested across the Austin-area. Of those people, 28 were considered non-criminals, other than being in the U.S. illegally. That is more than half of the total number of people arrested by ICE. The next closest region was Atlanta, Georgia with one-third of their arrests considered to be non-criminals.

The government and White House have repeatedly said the ICE operations are only “targeting” those with criminal backgrounds, immigration violations, pose a threat to public safety, and anyone who has been previously deported from the United States.

ICE claims the enforcement operations are part of routine efforts by the agency, planned before the president’s executive orders on immigration. “ICE does not conduct sweeps, checkpoints or raids that target aliens indiscriminately,” the agency said.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration said they were expanding the number of people living in the U.S. illegally who are considered a priority for deportation, including people arrested for traffic violations. The Homeland Security Department memos, signed by Secretary John Kelly, lay out that any immigrant living in the United States illegally who has been charged or convicted of any crime — and even those suspected of a crime — will now be an enforcement priority. That could include people arrested for shop lifting or minor traffic offenses.

Meantime Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Mexico talking with leaders there. Immigration and border security is expected to dominate the conversation. Mexico’s Foreign Secretary said Mexico will not accept the U.S. dumping off undocumented immigrants from countries “other than Mexico.”

In Austin, the Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez and Gov.Greg Abbott are battling over immigration policies.

Hernandez has said she will prohibit deputies or jailers from inquiring about someone’s immigration status and limit how they will work with ICE officials. Abbott followed through with his promise to cut $1.5 million in grants to Travis County on Feb. 1 in response to the sheriff’s ICE policy. The governor previously told Fox News that Hernandez would lose her job if she doesn’t reverse plans to stop honoring all federal immigration detainers in her jail.

With additional reporting by the Associated Press

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