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Sec. Kelly: We Target Criminals; Facts: ICE Targets Everyone

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Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, DHS Secretary General John Kelly relied on Trump Administration talking points, claiming that ICE is targeting “criminals, multiple convictions.” He denied that ICE targets everyone or that his agency goes after those with no criminal record, stating, “It’s got to be something else.”

His claims are demonstrably false.

John Kelly’s Deportation Force

First, the exchange. NBC host Chuck Todd correctly noted that, “one area where President Trump has not changed or softened his position is on the issue of immigration,” and asked Secretary Kelly a series of questions highlighting the Trump Administration’s focus on arresting and deporting formerly low priority undocumented immigrants by a ramped up “deportation force” (Sec. Kelly softened Todd’s descriptor to “law enforcement force”). Key portions of the exchange are below:

Sec. Kelly: “…just because you’re in the United States illegally doesn’t necessarily get you targeted. It’s got to be something else. And we’re operating more or less at the other end of the spectrum, and that is criminals, multiple convictions.

Chuck Todd: But define a criminal here, because that’s where there’s been– it seemed as if in the Obama administration there was one definition. There seems to be another definition in this administration.

Sec. Kelly: …It is fair to say that the definition of criminal has not changed, but where on the spectrum of criminality we operate has changed.

Chuck Todd: So can you give me an example of somebody that wasn’t deported before that you’re deporting now?

Sec. Kelly: Well, someone, as an example, with multiple DUIs. Even a single DUI, depending on other aspects, would get you into the system.”

ICE arrests of noncriminals double under Trump

Despite the rhetorical emphasis on criminals, Secretary Kelly’s DHS is, in fact, targeting undocumented immigrants without criminal records.

  • The Washington Post’s Maria Sacchetti has a new analysis out today entitled, “ICE immigration arrests of noncriminals double under Trump:” “Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to 5,441, the clearest sign yet that President Trump has ditched his predecessor’s protective stance toward most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Saccheti describes how the new data show, “newly empowered federal agents intensifying their pursuit of not just undocumented immigrants with criminal records, but also thousands of illegal immigrants who have been otherwise law-abiding.”
  • The Naples Daily News (FL) highlights how the vast majority of local undocumented immigrants being detained are not criminals: “For undocumented immigrants in Collier County, a traffic offense is now enough to end up at Krome, where they face deportation, according to recent arrest records. In the month after Trump’s order, at least 35 people and as many as 48 arrested by Collier deputies were transferred to ICE, according to hundreds of arrest records and court documents reviewed by the Naples Daily News. Three-fourths of those cases alleged only misdemeanor traffic offenses, such as driving with no valid license, driving with an expired license or driving with a suspended license, according to arrest records. Only three were for alleged felonies, and charges in two of those cases were dropped, and reduced to a misdemeanor in the third, court records show.”

Immigrants and families targeted by ICE

In addition, witness the array of recent cases from across the country of non criminals with U.S. citizen families who are being targeted by ICE:

  • Maribel Trujillo-Diaz, an Ohio mother whose case has garnered national attention recently as she faces imminent deportation by ICE despite having four U.S. citizen children — one, a 3 year-old with special needs that her mother is trained to recognize — and being a lay worker in her church. She has no criminal record but sits in a detention center in Louisiana and is scheduled to be deported on Wednesday.
  • Roberto Beristain, the husband of an American citizen and father to three U.S. citizen children, who despite having no criminal record, was deported back to Mexico after nearly two decades as a community pillar in an Indiana town. His “crime?” On a vacation with his wife to Niagara Falls they inadvertently crossed into Canadian territory and he was arrested when they crossed back.
  • Mario Hernandez-Delacruz: In an article titled, “After 19 years in Detroit, immigrant dad is deported to Mexico,” theDetroit Free Press tells the story of Mario, who despite having no criminal record and being the dad of two U.S. citizen children, was deported to Mexico last week.
  • Eliseo Pereyra, an Ohio resident for more than twenty years with no criminal record and a U.S. citizen son with medical needs who is now facing deportation, per the Dayton Daily News. The newspaper quotes Eliseo’s wife, Crystal, saying: “My understanding (was) the president said that he was only going to deport criminals, drug dealers, domestic violence (offenders), murderers and people like that. My husband is not that … We were in total shock to find out that they did not grant his stay again and that they will be deporting him. It’s been granted for the last 5-6-7 years. And he hasn’t done anything different. He’s still paying taxes, he’s still jumping through the hoops. He’s still paying the money to file everything.”

Frank Sharry: Evidence stands against Kelly

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

Donald Trump talks about going after the ‘bad hombres.’ Jeff Sessions pledges that the Administration is taking a stand against ‘filth.’ And Secretary Kelly assures us that immigration status alone won’t lead to targeting. But the evidence and stories from across the country tell a very different story. This Administration is purposefully targeting formerly ‘low priority’ undocumented immigrants who are deeply rooted in American families and American communities. It’s understandable why Kelly and his fellow travelers want to hide behind the smokescreen of criminality, but it’s not true, it’s not right and it’s not who we are. The American people want undocumented immigrants who are low-priority to be put on a path to legal status and citizenship, not on a path to detention, deportation and family separation.