Frontera Fund News Trump Watch

Who Populates Immigration Detention Centers and Courts Around the Country in the Trump Era?

Written by Carmen Cornejo

Since his campaign, Donald Trump has attacked immigrants and falsely described them as evil-doers, in spite of data consistently showing they are less prone to crime.

The poisonous environment of constant attacks on immigrant communities has been escalating from those campaign days through today.

A few days into his presidency, Trump signed an executive order eliminating immigration enforcement priorities, kickstarting a particularly damaging deportation machine.

The result of this shift in administrative immigration policy is evident more than a year into Trump’s presidency.

The latest available data from the immigration courts shows a sharp uptick in the detention of immigrants who have been in the U.S. for many years, in contrast to years past, when the majority of cases were of people who had recently crossed the border.


March 2018 court records reveal the characteristics of individuals being processed through the immigration courts: 10 percent of the undocumented immigrants had just arrived in the country, 43 percent of the cases had arrived two or more years ago, while 50 percent of cases filed last month were of immigrants who had been in the country more than five years.

In contrast, the Obama administration numbers are flipped. In December 2016, 72 percent of the court’s new filings were of individuals who had just arrived. Only 6 percent of the new immigration court cases were of individuals who had been in the U.S. for at least two years.

This information is available since the court records establish the dates of entry reported for each individual.

The lack of immigration enforcement priorities, which criminalizes long-time residents of the U.S., damages the community in many ways. Many long-time undocumented residents are business owners, homeowners and have American citizen children. With this shift in policies, individuals detained by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) confront processes that bring expensive legal bills, stress and potential deportation to their families, shaking their home economies.

Here is further interactive statistical data analysis on deportation proceedings in immigration courts of long-time undocumented residents in the U.S. This data comes from TRAC Immigration Tools, which is a source of comprehensive, independent and non-partisan information about immigration enforcement.