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The Trump Administration’s FY18 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget request seeks billions of dollars to ramp up its mass deportation force and policy. Yesterday and today, during testimony before the House and Senate appropriations committees, DHS Secretary John Kelly attempted to justify its extreme budget request by repeatedly and falsely claiming that his department is only in the business of deporting serious criminals. Kelly stated at ICE enforcement avoids sensitive locations such as schools, churches, and hospitals, claimed that immigrants are only put into detention if they are flight risks or dangerous, and said that the best way for cities to make themselves safer is to give ICE access to their jails. These are all completely false statements that make us question how willfully Kelly is ignoring the mass deportations of ordinary, hardworking immigrants that are happening under his watch.
Recent examples from around the country underscore that the actual people ICE is going after, as well as the extreme tactics ICE is relying on in its pursuit of mass deportations, which don’t match the spin from Secretary Kelly.
In Michigan, three ICE agents ate breakfast at an Ann Arbor restaurant before heading into the kitchen area and detaining a group of restaurant workers, including a legal resident. This example is disturbing on several levels, including the fact that profiling was clearly involved – the ICE agents walked into the kitchen and demanded proof of residency. One of the workers, who had his legal residency card on him, was released from custody, but several of his co-workers remain detained by ICE. According to MLive, “Carlos Rivera-Ochoa says his permanent resident card is always on him, tucked in his wallet, in case he needs to prove his identity and his ability to work legally in the U.S. It did not prevent him from being handcuffed and placed in a government vehicle.” A separate MLive account quotes the restaurant owner, Sava Lelcaj, saying, “It’s really sad … It scares the whole community. Today’s a great indication even if you have your documentation, and you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time, you can still be at risk.” Based on further MLive reporting, the workers appear to still be in custody.
In Virginia, the case of Liliana Cruz Mendez is another example of how ICE is targeting settled, non-criminal immigrants using “silent raids.” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe yesterday issued a pardon to a Falls Church, VA resident named Liliana Cruz Mendez for an old conviction over a minor traffic offense. Cruz Mendez is a mom of two from Falls Church who is facing imminent deportation. Her case fits into the pattern of “silent raids” that ICE has used to bolster its numbers of arrests – targeting settled immigrants who have been living in the country for a decade or more, have U.S. citizen children, and have nothing on their record that even remotely suggests they are dangerous. As the Washington Post noted, “ICE granted Cruz Mendez two stays of deportation under President Barack Obama, which had expired. ICE agents detained her May 18 after she arrived for a routine check-in. Her arrest comes as ICE is increasingly arresting undocumented immigrants with no criminal records or with minor infractions.” And as Gov. McAuliffe tweeted, “Taking Liliana away from her kids & husband won’t make VA safer … Feds need to focus on public safety threats & real immigration reform.”
In Maryland, the arrest and potential deportation of Baltimore father Jesus Peraza after dropping his son off at school contradicts Secretary Kelly’s false assurances.While Secretary Kelly claims that ICE is not operating near schools and is targeting “criminals,” the case of Jesus Peraza flies in the face of both claims. As WBAL highlights, Peraza has no criminal record and was stopped by ICE a block away from his son’s school, after dropping off his 10-year old. Elizabeth Alex, CASA’s director for Baltimore, noted that “These type of arrests are sending a chill throughout the community.”
The above examples are more fodder for the larger pattern of ICE enforcement under Secretary Kelly during the Trump Administration. ICE recently released statistics on immigration enforcement during Trump’s first 100 days, claiming that nearly 75% of immigrants arrested were convicted criminals. However, the ICE spin around its statistics start to fall apart upon closer scrutiny. While ICE hasn’t released the full breakdown of its arrests by category, we suspect that the vast majority of those arrested by ICE and defined as “convicted criminals” are people who are nothing close to being a public safety threat and at most have traffic and immigration-related violations on their record.
According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:
When Secretary Kelly justifies asking for billions of dollars to ramp up ICE deportations even more, remember the targets and tactics he is actually talking about – going after moms like Liliana through “silent raids,” arresting Jesus after he drops his 10-year old son off at school, and empowering agents to enjoy a nice breakfast before they head to the back of the restaurant to racially profile the kitchen staff. Kelly’s much-touted focus on deporting bad people is actually a quiet focus on deporting settled immigrants. This isn’t what the American people want. This isn’t who we are. This is a slow-motion mass deportation strategy that is undermining families, communities, and the values and ideals we as Americans hold dear.