President Donald Trump gestures while giving the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in New London, Conn. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
In this Tuesday, May 2, 2017, photo, Luis Barrios poses for a photo in Hartford, Conn. Barrios, an immigrant facing deportation to Guatemala, was granted a 30-day reprieve on Wednesday hours before he was to be put on a plane to Central America. Barrios, 25, has no criminal record and fled Guatemala in 1992 and entered the U.S. without legal permission. He lives in Derby, Conn., with his wife and four children, who are U.S. citizens. (AP Photo/Dave Collins)
SANTA ANA, Calif. — Arrests of immigrants suspected to be in the U.S. illegally soared in the early months of the Trump administration, in part because of a surge in the detention of immigrants who have no criminal convictions, officials announced Wednesday.
The number of those arrested by agents rose nearly 40 percent between Jan. 22 and April 29 compared to a similar period last year, according to figures made public by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Overall, 41,300 were arrested for deportation. Nearly 11,000 had no criminal convictions — more than double the number of immigrants without criminal convictions arrested during the period last year.
Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan said the increase came because of stepped up enforcement by the agents.
“Their job is to enforce the law, and that is exactly what they’re doing,” he said.
The report came as the Trump administration seeks to promote its accomplishments despite a growing scandal over the firing of the FBI director and the sharing of intelligence with Russian officials.
The immigration agency also sought to highlight arrests of gang members and murder and child molestation suspects who were among those detained.
But advocates for immigrants have protested the arrests of immigrants with no criminal records who were not targeted by the previous administration of President Barack Obama.
They included people brought to the country illegally as children who had been allowed to stay and those making required visits to check in with immigration authorities.
Some examples highlighted by advocates include a Southern California taxi driver from India who has lived in the U.S. for nearly two decades and a Mexican woman in Utah detained while shopping with her daughter.
While arrests of immigrants targeted by agents rose, the number of deportations fell 12 percent during the period, Homan said.
He attributed the drop to a decline in arrests on the U.S.-Mexico border where immigrants are usually shipped home quickly and a lengthy backlog in U.S. immigration courts that issue deportation orders.