Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told Irving city officials this week to stop referring illegal immigrants who have been arrested for Class C misdemeanors, according to a memo Irving officials provided to The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday.
The move is expected to dramatically alter which North Texas arrestees are interviewed by ICE and have deportation holds placed on them as part of the Criminal Alien Program. Irving officials estimate that about 60 percent of the more than 1,700 illegal immigrant suspects they have turned over to ICE since last year faced only Class C misdemeanor charges.
An ICE official reached Tuesday said he was researching the matter and could not confirm any details.
Class C misdemeanors range from assault to public intoxication to criminal trespass (of agricultural land) to hot checks. The penalty is a fine not to exceed $500. For comparison, Class B misdemeanors include disorderly conduct with a firearm, prostitution and driving while intoxicated. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.
Class C misdemeanors are the lowest class of criminal conviction you can receive, are on par with traffic tickets, don't get you any jail time, and aren't even reported on the defendant's criminal record. So it's not as if the City is letting hardened criminals return back to their neighborhoods. More importantly, it undermines the incentive of City officials to arrest those Hispanic immigrants charged with Class C misdemeanors, many of whom might not normally face arrest for their alleged misdeeds, because they can no longer turn them over to ICE. Given the percentages above, this puts a serious crimp in Irving's efforts to utilize minor criminal charges to have Hispanic residents deported back to Mexico.
UPDATE: More on the change.