Two new developments underscore how the Trump Administration — using aggressive and unprecedented strategies championed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and ICE chief Thomas Homan — are prioritizing deportations of long-settled and hardworking immigrants.
Laura Meckler’s Wall Street Journal story, “Wider Net Cast in Illegal-Immigration Cases,” connects the two pieces of disturbing news:
The Trump administration said Thursday that immigration judges may no longer administratively close cases, a way of letting someone avoid deportation, and released data showing that it is arresting far more illegal immigrants without criminal convictions than was true in the Obama administration. Together, the announcements show how the administration is rolling back Obama-era rules and policies that allowed for discretion in who is targeted for removal from the U.S.
According to Lynn Tramonte, Deportation Defense Coordinator for America’s Voice and the Director of America’s Voice Ohio:
Trump said he would deport ‘bad hombres.’ In reality, he’s focused on banishing immigrants of good character from the lives they built over decades. Many of the folks being deported today even have prior permission to stay here from the U.S. government and legal work permits — not to mention U.S. citizen children and spouses. Between Homan’s ICE and Sessions’ DOJ, we are witnessing an all-out assault on decent people that is senselessly cruel and unbelievably harmful to families.
In the New York Times story “Justice Dept. Restricts a Common Tactic of Immigration Judges,” Katie Benner writes on the announcement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions ending administrative closure. The piece quotes extensively from David Leopold, of Ulmer & Berne and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, who explains:
Sessions is using his authority as attorney general to turn the immigration courts into a deportation assembly line, with ICE officers waiting at the exits with open handcuffs in hand … Administrative closure gives immigration judges critical flexibility and discretion to make fair, due process-based decisions in deportation cases.
In USA Today, Alan Gomez highlights the new statistics on ICE enforcement in, “ICE Arresting More Non-criminal Undocumented Immigrants”:
Those numbers show the radical change in immigration enforcement implemented by President Trump, who issued new directives to ICE shortly after taking office in January 2017. Previously, ICE agents were told to prioritize their efforts on undocumented immigrants with serious criminal histories, including felonies, multiple misdemeanors, gang convictions, or other factors that made them a threat to public safety. Despite his campaign vow to go after “bad hombres,” Trump instructed ICE to arrest any undocumented immigrant its agents encountered, which has led to the sharp increase.
…Tom Jawetz, vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, said Trump has repeatedly tried to wrap all immigrants under a blanket of terrorism and gang violence. Trump’s comments on Wednesday, when he referred to some undocumented immigrants as “animals,” was just the latest example of that strategy, Jawetz said.
“You want to talk about refugees? He talks about ISIS. You want to talk about people fleeing violence and persecution? He talks about MS-13,” Jawetz said. “Ultimately the goal is both mass deportation of people who are here, and closing down our borders to those who still want to come, and the way you carry out that policy effort, from his perspective, is to drive fear as much as possible.”
And HuffPost’s Elise Foley adds additional disturbing details about the new ICE numbers in her story titled, “Trump’s ICE Is Increasingly Arresting Immigrants Without Criminal Convictions”:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is arresting more immigrants, and increasingly they have not been convicted of crimes, according to data released on Thursday by the agency.
About two-thirds of those arrested by ICE from October 2017 to the end of March had no criminal convictions — up from 21 percent during the same period the year before and only 13 percent the year before that. ICE officials noted that some of the arrested immigrants had been charged with a crime but not convicted.
…While most deportations originated with arrests by Customs and Border Patrol, ICE’s share rose for the most recent period; ICE arrested 39 percent of the people deported, up 10 percentage points from the previous year.