A new team of federal agents in Iowa this year has arrested immigrants with previous convictions for sex crimes, cocaine possession, kidnapping, and carjacking. Such arrests have been the exception, not the rule, says the Des Moines Register. Data obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act show that 67 percent of those detained – 84 of 125 people from February to May this year – had no previous criminal offenses.
Immigration violations, such as crossing the border without permission or overstaying a visa, are usually handled as civil, or administrative, offenses. “Eighty percent of the fugitive population is noncriminal,” said Tim Counts, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “While we focus on the worst offenders, we are charged with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws.” Advocates for immigrants criticize nonfugitive arrests, saying most of those who enter the U.S. illegally have no realistic means of gaining legal status under current immigration laws.