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As Trump Administration Seeks to Rev Up Deportation Machinery, Congress Needs to Provide Accountability, Not More Funding

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As Administration Continues to Push False Public Safety Narrative, Arrests of Non-Criminals Skyrocket; DOJ Erodes Immigration Judges’ Independence; and DHS Threatens to Expand Immigration Jails and Workplace Raids – Showing Complete Politicization of Federal Immigration Policy

The Trump Administration’s mass deportation policy has been on display over the past nine months, with cruel and un-American consequences. In our name and with our taxpayer dollars, the Administration has eliminated common sense enforcement priorities that previously focused on public safety threats, and instead is targeting moms and dads of U.S. citizens, and other immigrants with deep ties to this country.

As Alan Gomez of USA Today highlights, arrests of immigrants without criminal records have increased by 179% over the past year.

Said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

What we’re seeing is the complete politicization of federal immigration enforcement. The Administration’s purported focus on public safety threats is just a soundbite.  The reality is, they’ve completely upended the deportation system in a way that grossly misuses our taxpayer dollars.  The focus is no longer on bad guys, it’s on factory and farm workers.

The Trump Administration is making plans to further expand its deportation machinery – to make its vision of total deportation even more of a reality.  Through increased congressional funding, increased hiring at DHS agencies ICE and CBP, and increased use of reviled tactics such as SWAT-team style workplace raids, the Administration is seeking to evict as many immigrants as possible – no matter the toll on families, community, and the economy.

Below, we highlight several examples of the Trump Administration’s larger plans.  They all rely on the false narrative of criminality and threats to public safety, in an to attempt to justify mass deportation.

Said Tramonte:

These details make it clear that Congress needs to cut the Trump Administration’s purse strings, forcing them to focus on real public safety threats, instead of giving them a blank check to carry out mass deportation.

In USA Today, Gomez highlights how the Trump Administration is making plans to massively increase the number of federal immigration jails across America.As the Gomez piece makes clear, the Administration is adopting a political focus, retaliating against areas that refuse to be complicit in Trump’s mass deportation strategy.  Acting ICE Director Homan has stated as much.

The Trump administration is planning an increase in federal immigration jails across the country for the thousands of additional undocumented immigrants its agents are arresting. In recent weeks, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has put out requests to identify privately-run jail sites in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, Salt Lake City and southern Texas, according to notices published on a federal contracting website.

The detention expansion would represent the latest step in President Trump’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. From Jan. 22 through Sept. 9, the agency arrested 97,482 people suspected of being in the country illegally, a 43% increase over the same time period in 2016 under President Barack Obama, according to the latest ICE figures. During the same span, ICE arrested 28,011 undocumented immigrants without a criminal record, a 179% increase from the same period in 2016, when the Obama administration mainly went after those who committed serious offenses.

…Carl Takei, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project, said that kind of price tag means that ICE will most likely need new funding from Congress to build any more prisons. “To me, this is a signal that ICE wants to be ready, pen in hand, to sign new detention contracts as soon as Congress appropriates more money for detention,” Takei said.

CNN’s Tal Kopan highlights a speech Acting ICE Director Tom Homan’s delivered at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, in which he promised to ramp up workplace raids by a factor of four or five. As a reminder, past SWAT-team style workplace raids, in such locations as Postville, IA, terrorized children and devastated the entire community, becoming a black eye for the Bush Administration.

Nonetheless, Acting Director Homan yesterday pledged:

…his agency will vastly step up crackdowns on employers who hire undocumented immigrants — a new front in President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration agenda.

…Homan said he has instructed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative unit of ICE, to potentially quintuple worksite enforcement actions next year. He said he recently asked HSI to audit how much of their time is spent on work site enforcement, and said he has ordered that to increase “by four to five times.”

“We’ve already increased the number of inspections in work site operations, you will see that significantly increase this next fiscal year,” Homan promised, saying the goal is to remove the “magnet” drawing people to enter the US illegally.

…”Not only are we going to prosecute the employers that hire illegal workers, we’re going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers,” Homan said.

With regard to the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ control, last week Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post reported:

The Trump administration is taking steps to impose “numeric performance standards” on federal immigration judges, drawing a sharp rebuke from judges who say production quotas or similar measures will threaten judicial independence, as well as their ability to decide life-or-death deportation cases.

The White House says it aims to reduce an “enormous” backlog of 600,000 cases, triple the number in 2009, that cripples its ability to deport immigrants as President Trump mandated in January.

The National Association of Immigration Judges called the move unprecedented and says it will be the “death knell for judicial independence” in courts where immigrants such as political dissidents, women fleeing violence and children plead their cases to stay in the United States.

“That is a huge, huge, huge encroachment on judicial independence,” said Dana Leigh Marks, spokeswoman and former president of the association and a judge for more than 30 years. “It’s trying to turn immigration judges into assembly-line workers.”

To justify its overall approach, the Administration continues to advance a false narrative about public safety and criminality that the facts don’t bear out.Expect Sessions to continue contributing to this false narrative today during his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but also recognize that the fake immigrant criminality storyline is being pushed by figures throughout the Trump Administration.

Yesterday we highlighted how former DHS Secretary and current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly ordered ICE to portray immigrants as criminals in order to justify indiscriminate raids launched earlier this year in Austin, TX. Reacting to the revelations unearthed by The Intercept, we noted:

It does not seem to matter to this Administration that their view of undocumented immigrants in America is contradicted by facts. John Kelly’s attempt to find stories of dangerous apprehended criminals to give to the media, according to The Intercept story, failed. ICE officials were unable to find enough cases to paint the anti-immigrant picture DHS wanted. Yet this did nothing to change the Administration’s view on the effectiveness of its raids, or John Kelly’s public pronouncements that DHS was focusing on “public safety.”

It is well-established that immigrants commit fewer crimes than the native-born population, but Trump continues to paint undocumented people as a unique threat to America. And cities that don’t automatically hand immigrants over to ICE are safer as a result of that policy – a fact John Kelly ignored when said he said he found it “inconceivable” that cities don’t always want to cooperate with ICE.

Tramonte continued:

The bottom line is that under Trump, DHS and DOJ have completely politicized federal immigration enforcement.  They do this by peddling a false criminal narrative in the press, while targeting ordinary people who pose absolutely no threat to society and are in fact making important contributions.  It’s clear that Trump’s Administration is not interested in reason and logic.  They’re spending our nation’s tax dollars to carry out a political agenda.  Thankfully, there are two other branches of government – the Judiciary, which must hold this Administration to the confines of the Constitution, and the Congress, which must cut the budgets of these reckless Departments so that they are forced to focus on true priorities.