Arrests of Illegal Immigrants Over Time

Lets explore some data on the numbers and geographic distribution of illegal immigration in the US, remembering of course that illegal immigration is only one part of the broader immigration policy issue. Use the graph below to explore data on the flow of illegal immigration. We also tell you a little about the contemporary political debates on the issue. When you are done exploring, answer the questions below using the data as a resource, and click “submit” to activate the arrow to advance.

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Source: US Department of Homeland Security, 2018

Illegal Immigration Enforcement in Focus

The number of arrests of illegal immigrants in the US is affected both by the amount of illegal immigration to the US, which changes over time, in part due to international economic forces, and the degree to which the government enforces immigration law, which has varied by administration. In recent years, a major debate has arisen over whether local and state law enforcement officers should make arrests or hold suspects on behalf of federal immigration officials, with some arguing that they should, to preserve local and national security, and others (including some police departments and unions, and municipal and state governments) arguing that they should not, because it would erode the trust of the immigrant community in their areas. Americans have also debated whether and to what degree immigration enforcement officers should use discretion when considering making arrests, or prioritize enforcement. President Obama, for example, ordered immigration officials to prioritize arrests of undocumented immigrants with violent criminal records, while President Trump implemented a “zero tolerance” policy that does not discriminate on the basis of past criminal behavior (beyond undocumented presence).

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