No matter your particular inclinations or feelings for the Trump presidency, you have to admit that he is at least attempting to follow through on most of his campaign promises – however clumsily. One of those promises was getting tougher on immigration. This has not been clearer than in the immigration raids that have been taking across the country with increasing frequency: in one week, over 680 people were arrested by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE.
What makes these new raids so different from the immigration under Obama, and even Bush II is that first, ICE is making collateral arrests. These arrests are when ICE arrests immigrants not authorized to be in this country who simply happen to be in the same place they were raiding, even if they don’t have a warrant or knew of their existence. Also, President Obama’s promise that there would be no deportation of immigrants without a criminal history seems to be a distant memory. Although, general speaking, the raids were targeted to catch individual immigrants who ICE had warrants to arrest, and about 75% of the immigrants arrested were criminal aliens. However, there is some debate as to what these criminal convictions are for. Some of them are for minor crimes, or for simply reentering the country illegally or overstaying their visas.
While these raids are not illegal or unconstitutional on the face, the manner in which they are being carried out is aggressive and somewhat unprecedented. In some cases, ICE agents made arrests out of uniform, or while wearing a vest with ‘ICE’ on the back. Of course, if you open a door, you can’t see what’s on the back. There has been no evidence of street level “check points” on roads, asking drivers for proof of citizenship, despite rampant rumors which say otherwise. These raids have received more notoriety, but Mr. Trump is actually carrying on with an essentially fairly aggressive immigration policy started under Bush II and continued by Obama. For example, an LA raid got 112 immigrants in one week under the Obama administration. Of course, Obama was more artful, using these raids to show constituents that he is tough on crime while also pressuring Congress to pass laws that would have allowed unauthorized immigrants an easier path to citizenship. Mr. Trump appears to be uninterested in the political side, amending the enforcement priorities to include basically every undocumented alien in the country, rather than repeat offenders or violent criminals. Mr. Obama preferred the latter policy, rumored to have angered and frustrated many ICE agents, citing the fact that they have been unable to do the job they were hired to do.
Another departure from the Obama-era policies is deportation on those who have been arrested, even if they have not otherwise committed any crimes. A mother of two in Phoenix was arrested almost ten years ago when she used a fake ID to get a custodial job. She pleaded guilty to a felony charge but was not deported and remained in the country for years. When she showed up this month for a scheduled check-in with immigration officers, she was promptly placed on a bus and shipped back to Mexico. Most immigration advocates are watching the situation unfold with caution for their clients, urging them to get an attorney if they are afraid or uncertain and to know their rights. Among the advice given is to always ask for an arrest warrant if ICE is at your door, and if they speak to you, to understand that you do not have to answer their questions. They will likely arrest you, but you have the right to an attorney at any hearing. While Mr. Trump’s policies are not that starkly different from that under the Obama administration, the manner in which it is being carried out is decidedly harsher, often with families being split up despite no criminal behavior from the immigrant. This is certainly one campaign promise that has turned into policy.