The Criminal Alien Program: “ICE’s Biggest and Least Understood Enforcement Program”

For Immediate Release

The Criminal Alien Program

ICE’s Biggest and Least Understood Enforcement Program

February 17, 2010

Washington, D.C.– The Criminal Alien Program (CAP)–a program administered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)–is designed to screen inmates in prisons and jails, identify deportable non-citizens, and place them into deportation proceedings. However, in the years since CAP was initiated, there have been concerns about whether or not ICE is actually targeting immigrants with serious criminal records.

Today, the IPC releases a new Special Report, The Criminal Alien Program: Immigration Enforcement in Travis County Texas by Andrea Guttin, Esq., which provides a history and analysis of ICE’s problematic enforcement program, as well as a case study of CAP implementation in Travis County, Texas.

While ICE claims that CAP’s focus is "dangerous criminal aliens," the data show that legal as well as unauthorized immigrants with a wide range of criminal history–or no criminal history at all–are being identified for deportation. Other concerns surrounding the CAP include racial profiling, pre-textual arrests, immigrant distrust of local police, underreporting of domestic violence and finally, misuse of immigrant detainers–which are being used by CAP and other immigration enforcement programs (such as Secure Communities).

The CAP report shows that:

  • CAP is the program responsible 48% of all deportable immigrants identified by ICE in FY 2009-more than the 287(g) program, Fugitive Operations, and the Office of Field Operations combined.
  • A large percentage of immigrants apprehended under CAP are not criminals at all. An October 2009 DHS report found that 57 percent of immigrants identified through the CAP program in FY 2009 had no criminal convictions, up from 53 percent in FY 2008.
  • In Travis County, a majority of immigrants placed under detainer were arrested for a misdemeanor as their most serious charge. In 2008, 58 percent of the detainers were placed on those charged with misdemeanors-up from 38 percent in 2007 and 34 percent in 2006.

To read the report and additional resources in their entirety, see:


For more information contact Wendy Sefsaf at wsefsaf or 202-507-7524.

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The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) is the research and policy arm of the American Immigration Council. IPC’s mission is to shape a rational national conversation on immigration and immigrant integration. Through its research and analysis, IPC provides policymakers, the media, and the general public with accurate information about the role of immigrants and immigration policy on U.S. society. IPC reports and materials are widely disseminated and relied upon by press and policy makers. IPC staff regularly serves as experts to leaders on Capitol Hill, opinion-makers and the media. IPC, formed in 2003 is a non-partisan organization that neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for office.

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