When it comes to its immigration enforcement strategy, the Trump Administration and its allies like to pretend that they are focusing on bad people. Witness the frequent rhetoric from President Trump and DHS Secretary John Kelly, ICE’s misleading statistical spin, and Speaker Paul Ryan’s dismissive response to the idea of a deportation force.
That’s why ICE acting Director Thomas Homan’s testimony before the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee this week was so significant – it laid bare the Trump Administration’s radical deportation policy without the usual spin and obfuscation.
Homan justified targeting all undocumented immigrants by stating, “we shouldn’t wait for them to become a criminal” – a breathtaking presumption that “they” are all latent criminals. Homan also made it clear that the ICE strategy is to indiscriminately target the entire undocumented population in America and to intentionally spread fear throughout millions of deeply-rooted families. As Ted Hesson of Politico captured:
Homan said non-criminal arrests help maintain the integrity of the immigration system. Of those in the country illegally, he said, “You should be uncomfortable, you should look over your shoulder and you need to be worried.’
Homan’s admission that everyone is a target for deportation, that fear is a purposeful part of the Trump Administration’s strategy, and that ICE no longer relies on discretion or common sense in determining who it deports matches what’s happening on the ground. Here are just a few examples of people our government is targeting – breaking up families and sowing fear in the process:
The New York Times reports on Marco’s case:
Marco Coello, then a skinny 18-year-old high school student, was grabbed by plainclothes agents of the Venezuelan security services as he joined a 2014 demonstration against the government in Caracas.
They put a gun to his head. They attacked him with their feet, a golf club, a fire extinguisher. They tortured him with electric shocks. Then Mr. Coello was jailed for several months, and shortly after his release, he fled to the United States.
Human Rights Watch extensively documented his case in a report that year. The State Department included him in its own human rights report on Venezuela in 2015. With such an extensive paper trail of mistreatment in his home country, his lawyer, Elizabeth Blandon, expected a straightforward asylum interview when Mr. Coello appeared at an immigration office this April in Miami.
“I had this very naïve idea that we were going to walk in there and the officer was going to say, ‘It’s an honor to meet you,’” said Ms. Blandon, an immigration law expert in Weston, Fla.
Instead, he was arrested and taken to a detention facility on the edge of the Everglades. He was now a candidate for deportation.
As we’ve highlighted, the Administration has been running up its deportation numbers by targeting the undocumented immigrants who are easiest to find – those who have been checking in with ICE regularly for years under an exercise of prosecutorial discretion and those at USCIS appointments.
- In New York, ICE agents arrested teenager Diego Ismael Puma Macancela just hours before his prom, a day after his mom was detained. Diego and his mother arrived in the United States in 2014, and they were immediately detained and later released pending court hearings. While they did apply for asylum, his family never appealed their removal order due to a lack of financial resources. According to theWashington Post, before he was detained, Diego “had been balancing his school work with two jobs, working shifts at a McDonalds and a local pizzeria…. “Instead of wearing a tuxedo and putting a boutonniere on his wrist, he was wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles,” Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said at the protest.”
- In New York, Martin Martinez, a grandfather and father of two adult US citizens was told, originally, to report for deportation in July, after living, working, and paying taxes in the US for almost 30 years. Martin Martinez applied for asylum in 2004, but was denied and was first detained in 2013. He’s been checking in with ICE since then, but recently had his deportation order expedited. On June 13, he was told to report to ICE with a one-way ticket out of the United States for early July. Because this ticket had a layover, ICE has now detained Martin and separated him from his family.
- Last month, the Trump administration arbitrarily revoked the DACA-status of Jessica Colotl, the Atlanta-resident long-term immigration activist, putting her in immediate danger of deportation and detention. On Monday, the federal court in Atlantafound that the government had provided no actual reason for stripping Jessica of her status and ordered her DACA restored, pending a reevaluation of her application.
- Virginia resident and mother of two U.S. citizen children, Liliana Cruz Mendez, 30, who fled violence was detained at a regular ICE check-in last month and was recently moved to a detention center in Louisiana. She is now expected to be deported back to El Salvador eminently. The Washington Post reports“‘This is the real face of what ICE is doing,’ said George Escobar, senior director of human Services for CASA, a Maryland-based nonprofit that is aiding Cruz Mendez. ‘They are shattering families and children’s lives.’”
- In Louisiana, Yeimi Galindo Madrid, mother of two American citizens, is being held in ICE detentionand could be deported as early as Friday. She came to the United States after fleeing domestic abuse in Honduras. Advocates will honor her in a vigil on Sunday and during a Father’s Day prayer and call to action for her release tomorrow.
- Finally, last week, ICE deported Francia Elena Benitez-Castaño, who was arrested in May on her way to work, alongside her oldest son, was deported. The two had a final, outstanding deportation order from 2002. Castaño was deported without “letting her lawyer know, depriving her children of a last chance to visit her at the detention center,” according to theSanta Fe New Mexican. Her son, who found out he was undocumented on the day of his arrest, has so far been spared deportation, as he may qualify for the DACA-program.