WASHINGTON — Nearly 60,000 “Dreamers” — children of undocumented immigrants allowed to stay in the U.S. on visas under an Obama administration program — have been arrested since the program began in 2012, new stats from the Trump administration show.
While the overwhelming majority of the 59,787 arrests were on nonviolent charges, among participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, 10 were charged with murder; 4,500, assault or battery; 830, sex crimes; and 95, kidnapping, human trafficking or false imprisonment, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ DACA recipients arrest stats reveal.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly labeled immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border “rapists,” “murderers” and gang members, and the new statistics likely will give him some ammunition in his fight for tighter border security and immigration restrictions. And on Friday, meeting here with families whose loved ones were murdered by illegal immigrants, Trump again sought to link violence with illegal immigrants and pledged anew to restrict immigrant entries.
But in reality, research suggests, violence — and all crime — among immigrants is lower than that of the population of citizens native to the United States. A March 2017 Cato Institute report found that the incarceration rate for citizens native to the United States stood at 1.53 percent, compared with .85 percent for illegal immigrants and .47 percent for legal immigrants.
Research has also shown areas with high concentrations of immigrants have lower crime rates than other areas.
Trump disputed the validity of such research.
“I always hear that, ‘Oh, no, the population’s safer than the people that live in the country,’ ” Trump said. “I hear it so much, and I say, ‘Is that possible?’ The answer is it’s not true. You hear it’s like they’re better people than what we have, than our citizens. It’s not true.”
The president did not provide evidence to support his claim nor elaborate.
The federal DACA arrest document said more than 50,000 of the “Dreamers” arrested, among the estimated 800,000 DACA recipients in the country, were for nonviolent offenses — the most frequent charges, non-DUI driving related offenses (nearly 21,000), immigration-related offenses (11,861) and theft (6,629).
The seven-page document did not say how many of those arrested had been convicted or whether charges have been dismissed, and an administration official said those stats were not available.
In an emailed statement, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said: “Criminal activity of DACA requestors has long been the subject of widespread discussion and speculation, with a regrettable lack of available data — until now.
“The truth is, that we let those with criminal arrests for sexually assaulting a minor, kidnapping, human trafficking, child pornography, or even murder be provided protection from removal,” Cissna continued. “Yet the courts rule that we are unable to change this policy — even though those with criminal histories are getting through the system and permitted to remain in the country, despite having a high number of arrests for any types of crimes before or after receiving DACA protection.”
Children of undocumented immigrants who have been arrested can be considered for DACA — as long as they have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant misdemeanor,” or three or more “non-significant” misdemeanors stemming from different offenses, and are not deemed a threat to national security or public safety.
President Donald Trump checks out prototypes for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall during a March visit to San Diego, Calif. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo)
Trump meets ‘angel families’
The new stats come as Trump met Friday with members of about a dozen “angel families” who lost loved ones to murders committed by illegal immigrants (video).
“These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones,” Trump told the family members at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, framed by a red-white-and-blue banner bearing the words “Secure Our Borders — Protect Our Communities.”
“These are the families the media ignores,” Trump said. “These are the stories that Democrats and people that are weak on immigration don’t want to discuss. … They don’t talk about the death and destruction caused by people that shouldn’t be here, people that will continuously get into trouble and do bad things.”
Trump told family members of the murder victims: “We will not rest until our borders are secure, our citizens are safe and we finally end the immigration crisis once and for all.”
The president pointed to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program, Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement (VOICE). Trump said about 2,800 people have registered for the program which began in April 2017 and provides services including counseling and legal assistance in prosecuting suspects.
VOICE also will provide quarterly reports “studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States,” its website says.
On Friday, a statement the White House released on the VOICE program, cited a 2011 Government Accountability Office report that found from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2008, 249,000 illegal immigrants had been incarcerated and that undocumented immigrants had been charged with 3 million offenses during the same
Undocumented immigrants, the report said, had been charged with more than 25,000 homicides, nearly 70,000 sex crimes, nearly 15,000 kidnappings and about 42,600 robberies.
Earlier Friday, Trump took to Twitter to question the validity of the suffering of parents separated from their children at the border:
We must maintain a Strong Southern Border. We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections. Obama and others had the same pictures, and did nothing about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2018
The event Friday marked the end of a tumultuous week on immigration matters. The president, facing international outrage and mounting political and public pressure, reversed course on the separation of children from mothers who had crossed the border illegally when he signed an executive order ending the practice Thursday.
And on Friday, administration officials who asked to remain anonymous because they’re not authorized to speak about the policy, said 500 of the 2,300 children who had separated from their migrant parents between early May and early June have been reunited with their parents.
On DACA, Trump, a frequent critic of the program, has repeatedly moved to end it, and administration lawyers urged a federal court in Texas on June 8 to shut down the program on the grounds it violates federal immigration law. But two other federal courts have required the government to continue DACA.
That could lead to a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court, which in February refused a Justice Department request to review DACA challenges.
But with midterm elections fast approaching — and overwhelming voter support for preserving DACA — congressional lawmakers are expected to take up a compromise immigration bill next week that would offer DACA Dreamers six-year renewable legal status and a new visa program that could lead to citizenship. But the compromise, which would also provide funds for Trump’s wall at the Mexican border, could face resistance among conservative immigration hardliners, stung by the defeat Thursday of a much more stringent immigration bill they supported.
Polls have shown broad support for continuing DACA — by a wide margin among Democrats, by solid majorities among Republicans.