Deportations Up Under Trump

A round-up of immigrant round-ups


Since Donald Trump's election, immigrant rights activists have been bracing themselves for mass round-ups of the estimated 11 million undocumented aliens currently in the country. As a candidate, after all, Trump cited Dwight Eisenhower's Operation Wetback—when over a million illegal Mexicans were ejected by border patrol teams in the first year alone—as his "model."

That hasn't happened. But less than a month after Trump's inauguration, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly radically revised the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) that Barack Obama put in place in the last few years of his term. As its name suggests, the program's goal was to focus on deporting hardened criminals—"bad hombres," in Trump's telling—but largely lay off everyone else. Kelly still wants to go after the violent offenders, but he has also given Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) free rein to target practically everyone.

Before, when ICE agents raided Latino homes or communities acting on specific intel about specific bad guys, they were supposed to limit their searches to those particular targets, not go on a general hunting expedition for other undocumented residents. No more. Now agents can take anyone without a valid visa into custody for detention and deportation.

This is why, though the multi-city raids conducted in Trump's first few weeks were planned under the Obama administration, they had a radically different impact than they otherwise would have. ICE agents picked up about 675 people; only a fifth (around 140) had any serious conviction on their record. About half were what are called "collaterals" in ICE lingo—folks with either no criminal conviction (in 177 cases) or convictions only for minor offenses such as traffic violations or driving under the influence (another 163).

Kelly has also expanded the scope of "expedited removals," in which immigrants are thrown out of the country without a court review or hearing. Under Obama, such removals were limited to people who'd been in America for only two weeks and were caught within 100 miles of the border. Now the policy is being applied to all undocumented folks anywhere who have been here for under two years.

Cruelest of all is the administration's policy on so-called check-ins. These are people who have been convicted of some minor crime, such as obtaining a fake ID so they can work. But because they have American children or other deep ties to the country, they're given a reprieve from deportation so long as they check in with ICE every few months.

Under Kelly, several such undocumented immigrants showed up for a routine check-in and were summarily deported. As a result, others in this cohort are confronted with the unenviable choice of either appearing at the ICE office and risking never making it home, or skipping their appointments and becoming absconders. The latter course means abandoning nearly all hope of being regularized some day.

And then there are the undocumented people who were brought to America by their parents when they were children. Trump has repeatedly insisted that he has a "big heart" and would leave these immigrants unmolested. And in theory, Kelly's memo outlining his policy changes didn't touch the Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which forestalls deportation proceedings against this group and grants them temporary work permits.

But DACA gives no guarantee they won't be detained or forced to leave at some point in the future. Their status can be rescinded if they so much as put a toe out of line. Since they're still technically here illegally, that can be hard to avoid. Minor infractions like traffic violations or "transporting"—a.k.a. giving a ride to—another illegal immigrant can get DACAs stripped of their status. Many have been detained in recent months, although only one known DACA holder has been actually deported so far.

The upshot is that within three months of assuming office, the Trump administration arrested under Trump 21,262 undocumented aliens, a jump of 33 percent over the same period last year. Trump's numbers now are at nearly the same level as Obama's 2014 peak, which prodded him to implement the PEP program because he was running out of actual criminals to deport. It is thus no surprise that about a quarter of those arrested have committed no crimes other than being here illegally in the first place.

The only reason the administration's deportation numbers aren't even higher, according to Joshua Breisblatt of the pro-immigration American Immigration Council, is that Congress has refused to give it all the funds it wants. Lawmakers handed Trump some money for mending the existing border fence in their May spending bill. But the legislature has refused his request for more detention centers, more courts, and 10,000 more ICE agents.

Trump is trying to overcome these constraints by reinstating a notorious program that Obama shut down, in which local authorities voluntarily sign up to become Homeland Security agents. This lets them enforce immigration law, acquiring tremendous powers to detain and arrest suspected illegal aliens.

Whether such aggressive enforcement will make a dent in the total numbers of undocumented immigrants in the country remains to be seen. But there is little doubt that under Trump, they and their loved ones are in for some rough times.

NEXT: Marco Rubio Sells Out the DREAMers and His Principles

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  1. Do the illegals who are arrested get put into the system? It seems to me that if each person arrested were provided an identity card with appropriate info, then they could be quickly checked against the criminal database just like any citizen. This would facilitate things like collecting income taxes that so drive the anti-immigrant folks.

    1. What, like a VISA? ^_-

  2. I don’t have any issue calling Trump out on this, I am bothered by how she attempts to cover-up Obama’s terrible immigration policy. The first half reads like a Obama Apology.

    You’re whitewashing history, at least have the decency to have a consistent stance.

    1. What is worse, Obama promising to legalize illegal aliens and not doing it or Trump promising to run them all out of the country and not doing it?

      Obviously, to most people, Obama was better because he made the right mouth sounds. Trump could have left every Obama-Era policy and regulation in place and he would have been lambasted as an evil man because of his policies.


      1. Trump is just as an overt asshole who says mean things and blatantly lies about idiotic things with absolutely no purpose just to piss people off. Obama was a sneaky asshole who lied his face off because he knew anybody who questioned him would be called a racist conservatard.

        1. Exactly. The point being that the only thing that matters are words and intentions. Actions and consequences aren’t things that interest the left. Frankly, much the same can be said of the right. It’s just a bit more obvious when it comes to the left because they’re literally stupid enough to endorse socialism.

          Never go full retard.

    2. At least it acknowledges that even with evil Trump’s policies, we are still at the same rate as Obama in his 5th year as president. 2014 is also the same year Eric Holder’s DOJ seized 4.5 billion using asset forfeiture, increased from around 1.5 billion under Bush.

      While I’m glad people are finally noticing and caring about these things, but where the fuck were they for 8 years?! There’s a reason why Trump’s fake news shtick works so well. I hate everybody.

  3. GOOD! Deport them.

    If they are here illegally, deport them. If they commit a crime while awaiting citizenship status, deport them. If they overstay a visa, deport them. If they lie on their application, deport them. If they have been deported before, don’t let them in.

    After we get all these crappy aliens out, then maybe we can discuss relaxing work and refugee visas policies.

  4. Cruelest of all

    Is ‘enforcing the law’ really cruelty?

    I’m a proponent of a vastly simplified and streamlined immigration system that would make it far simpler and easier for people to work in the US and come and go. Both temporary labor, and people seeking to eventually become citizens.

    I find people like Shikha to be the worst-possible people to have on my “side”

    (if you want to call it that; i think the issue has more than 2 sides – one can be in support of ‘more legal immigration’, as i am, and still think enforcement of the laws on the books makes sense to dissuade illegal migrants)

    She basically makes the entire ‘pro-immigration’ case sound retarded by injecting these faux-moralistic judgements. Its not a matter of “cruelty” or “kindness”. Its a matter of convincing people of what the better policies should look like, and getting those policies legislated. There’s nothing gained by simply shrieking and moaning and pretending that the normal state of affairs that has gone on for decades and decades – e.g. “the deportation of illegal immigrants” – is some new and inhuman form of terror invented by the current administration.

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