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ICYMI: CNN’s Tal Kopan on “How Trump Changed the Rules to Arrest More Non-criminal Immigrants”

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ICE, the Trump Administration’s interior immigration enforcement agency, is out of control, routinely engaging in political retaliation and indiscriminate arrests that are trampling on American values and separating American families. A close observer of the Trump Administration’s immigration extremism, CNN’s Tal Kopan, today writes a piece assessing ICE’s renewed focus on “low hanging fruit” – including many of the immigrants without criminal records whose arrests surged 171% in 2017 compared to 2016.

The story, “How Trump changed the rules to arrest more non-criminal immigrants,” captures many of the heartbreaking stories of families separated in the past year and includes quotes from law enforcement experts who recognize that the focus on non-criminals and immigrants dutifully checking in with ICE does not advance, and may set back, overall public safety. Keep in mind, Trump and his congressional allies are now seeking to advance a federal budget that would expand these deportation capabilities – resulting in more ICE agents separating families and sowing fear throughout communities.

We excerpt Tal Kopan’s powerful CNN piece below:

A businessman and father from Ohio. An Arizona mother. The Indiana husband of a Trump supporter. They were unassuming members of their community, parents of US citizens and undocumented. And they were deported by the Trump administration.

It’s left many wondering why the US government is arresting and deporting a number of individuals who have often lived in the country for decades, checked in regularly with immigration officials and posed no danger to their community. Many have family members who are American citizens, including school-aged children.

President Donald Trump famously said in a presidential debate that his focus is getting the “bad hombres” and the “bad, bad people” out first to secure the border, but one of his first actions after taking office was an executive order that effectively granted immigration agents the authority to arrest and detain any undocumented immigrant they wanted.

…In Trump’s first year, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 109,000 criminals and 46,000 people without criminal records — a 171% increase in the number of non-criminal individuals arrested over 2016.

…Critics say including people with decades-old final orders of removal as priorities is more about boosting numbers by targeting easily catchable individuals than about public safety threats.

“A final order of removal is absolutely not indicative of a person’s threat to public safety,” said former Obama administration ICE chief and DHS counsel John Sandweg. “You cannot equate convicted criminals with final orders of removal.”

Sandweg said that people with final orders, especially those who are checking in regularly with ICE, are easy to locate and can be immediately deported without much legal recourse. Identifying and locating criminals and gang members takes more investigative work.

…As a result of the change in ICE policy, headlines about heart-wrenching cases of deportation separating children from parents or caregivers have been a regular occurrence.

The story of Amer Adi, an Ohio businessman who lived in the US nearly 40 years, and has a wife and four daughters who are all American citizens, drew national media coverage last month. Through a complicated dispute about his first marriage, Adi lost his status and was ordered deported in 2009, but ICE never opted to remove him from the country. His congressman even introduced a bill to protect Adi, saying he was a “pillar” of the community, but last fall, ICE told Adi to prepare to be deported.

At a check-in on January 15, he was taken into custody and not allowed to see his family before being put on a plane back to his home country of Jordan on January 30.

“We shouldn’t spend one penny on low-hanging fruit,” said Sarah Saldana, the most recent director of ICE before Trump’s inauguration. “What we should be spending money is on getting people who are truly a threat to public safety.”

…ICE has combined “ICE fugitives” — people who have been ordered to leave the country but haven’t yet — with convicted criminals who have pending criminal charges and reinstated final orders of removal, allowing the agency to say 92% of those arrested under Trump had criminal convictions or one of the other factors — when the number with criminal records is closer to 70%.

…Saldana and other former immigration officials question the prudence of going after that population indiscriminately, saying it diverts resources from more serious security concerns.

If 20 officers are assigned to identify targets with final orders, “those are 20 officers who won’t be out focused on finding gang members or criminals,” said Bo Cooper, a career official who served as general counsel of ICE’s predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

“When there are a finite amount of resources, choices you make come at the expense of other choices,” Cooper said. “It really is a significant policy choice.”