Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

An immigration sweep by the numbers

Photo by olongapowoodcraft/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Announcing a nationwide series of immigration sweeps this morning, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials tallied up the arrests of what ICE director John Morton termed in "3,168 fewer criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators in our neighborhoods across the country."

But as it typically goes with these operations, which have grown larger in recent months as the Obama administration carries out its mandate to arrest convicted criminals, the breakdown of the immigrants arrested is complicated. Not all are high-profile offenders; in fact, not all are convicts.

Here's ICE's local breakdown from Los Angeles, where of the 206 people apprehended, 106 had convictions for serious or violent crimes, according to the agency:

106 with Level I Convictions (Convicted of serious crimes, such as homicide, rape, drug trafficking, threats to national security and other “aggravated felonies,” or convicted of two or more felonies.)

85 with Level II Convictions (Convicted of a single felony, such as a property crime or extortion, or convicted of three or more misdemeanors.)

5 with Level III Convictions (Convicted of up to two misdemeanors, such as minor drug offenses and disorderly conduct.)

10 with no prior convictions

Of the 3,168 arrests nationwide, the breakdown was similar: 1,296 Level 1 arrestees; 1,427 Level II arrestees; 111 Level III arrestees, and 334 people with no criminal records, according to ICE.

Five of the people without criminal records arrested in Los Angeles were encountered at residences where agents "went to take custody of criminal targets," according to the agency. The remaining five were people who had no criminal convictions but had been previously deported. Altogether, non-criminals accounted for a little under 10 percent of those arrested in the sweeps nationwide.

The agency has managed to cut down somewhat on what it once termed "collateral arrests," which once represented a hefty percentage of the immigrants arrested in sweeps targeting criminals or "immigration fugitives," a term used for people who failed to comply with deportation orders or missed court appearances. Many of these arrests took place after immigration agents appeared at homes to arrest people they were actively seeking. Sometimes, even if the person didn't live there, other deportable immigrants who happened to be in the home were arrested.

In fiscal year 2007, "collaterals" comprised 40 percent of those arrested in fugitive sweeps, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute. After a series of complaints, the Obama administration stated it would hone its focus on criminals. The percentage of non-criminals arrested in sweeps dropped afterward, though some are still picked up, as seen in the numbers.