Is Trump Arresting Fewer Noncriminals Than Obama? The Latest Data Says Yes

Apr 19, 2017
10:30 AM

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post was published here.

Despite what the national media is trying to tell you, a deeper look into the data confirms that immigration arrests of noncriminals has dropped by 13% so far under the Trump administration, compared with the overall percentage of noncriminals arrested from 2009 to 2016 under the Obama administration, according to statistics provided to The Washington Post and the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Nonetheless, Maria Sacchetti of The Washington Post reported the opposite:

Immigration arrests rose 32.6 percent in the first weeks of the Trump administration, with newly empowered federal agents intensifying their pursuit of not just undocumented immigrants with criminal records, but also thousands of illegal immigrants who have been otherwise law-abiding.

This is confusing.

The WaPo article subtly yet indubitably misled its readers by selectively relying upon a very narrow sliver of data to reach its conclusion: January 20, 2017-March 13, 2017 under Trump, with the same time period in in 2016, 2015, and 2014 under the Obama administration.

Perhaps even more concerning is that the reporter constructed a false veneer of objectivity by alluding to the fact that the Obama administration may have arrested more noncriminals than Trump, but then left readers in the dark, alone to rely solely upon the WaPo’s unrepresentative data sample:

Some say criticism of Trump’s policies seems politically charged, noting that President Barack Obama deported thousands of immigrants without criminal records. And arrests this year are lower than Obama’s first weeks in 2014, when agents arrested 29,238 immigrants, including 7,483 noncriminal ones.

Advocates for immigrants say they also criticized Obama as the “deporter in chief” and waged a national campaign to create sanctuary cities to shield immigrants from deportation.

But they said Obama sought to avoid deporting longtime immigrants with roots in their communities and American-born children. He also lobbied Congress to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and granted work permits to more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

But the real fact is this: arrests of noncriminals this year are much, much lower than the peak enforcement years of the Obama administration.

As a matter of percentage, under Trump, ICE arrests of noncriminals account for 25.47% of of total arrests (5,441 out of 21,362).

In 2014 during the same time period, under Obama, ICE arrests of noncriminals accounted for slightly less than .1% more, at 25.6% of total arrests (7,482 out of 29,328).

The Washington Post’s idea of objectivity was to compare statistics of the three years most most favorable to Obama on immigration enforcement (2014-2016) and to exclude the five years that are least favorable to Obama (2009-2013).

The most striking example of this is the comparison of noncriminal arrests under Trump with the year 2009, the first year of the Obama administration.

In Fiscal Year 2009, nine months of which are attributable to Obama, ICE arrested 182,031 noncriminals out of a total of 297,898 arrests.

A whopping 61% of arrests were of noncriminals.

In fact, in 2009, the Obama administration arrested more noncriminals than the total the sum of the total number criminals and noncriminals arrested in 2015 (and likely in 2016) as well.  

Lest one think that 2009 was an isolated incident, here are the percent of noncriminals arrested out of total arrests for FY2010 to FY 2013.

  • FY 2010: 47 % (129,302 out of 272,384)
  • FY 2011: 42% (121,197 out of 288,392)
  • FY 2012: 35% (93,648 out of 265,573)
  • FY 2013: 27% (63,843 out of 232,287)

As such, for each of the five years The Washington Post happened to omit from its article, the Obama administration deported more noncriminals than the Trump administration.

When pointed this out to the Washington Post reporter to request a correction to its incorrect conclusion that arrests of noncriminals doubled under Trump, she refused to acknowledge any error, or even to respond beyond the conclusory:

Here is the original email sent:

And the previous “explanations” were nothing more than conclusory denials:

The numbers are never just the numbers.


Bryan Johnson is a partner at the law firm of Amoachi and Johnson, PLLC in New York. His office represents over 300 Central American children in fighting their deportation by securing permanent legal protection through asylum and special immigrant juvenile status.