Trump’s February Immigration Enforcement Raids

By Joseph G. Ballstaedt

Recent immigration enforcement raids have received considerable attention. These raids, which picked up more than 680 people, were conducted between February 6 and February 10 in the Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and other areas. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), this action was routine immigration enforcement that did not represent an increase in tempo. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agreed, stating: “ICE conducts these kind of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years.” President Trump, on the other hand, suggested otherwise, tweeting: “The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!” Immigrant-rights activists had named President Obama the “Deporter-in-Chief” because of the millions he deported. However, it seems President Trump is attempting to outdo Obama.

Is this routine action or an increased crackdown? The DHS emphasized that the majority (75%) of detained individuals were criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, and DUI. However, the raids also captured immigrants without criminal records. Some immigration attorneys agree that this ICE action is “new” and that deportation priorities have changed. Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, an immigrant youth organization, said: “This is clearly the first wave of attacks under the Trump administration, and we know this isn’t going to be the only one.”

While the tone from Trump’s Presidency is certainly different than Obama’s, the data at this point is somewhat difficult to analyze. In 2016, ICE apprehensions led to 65,332 removals (i.e., interior removals), an average of about 1,250 per week. Some argue most of these removals did not result from individuals being picked up from their communities and were therefore much different than the recent ICE raids. Most of these 2016 apprehensions occurred when ICE assumed custody of people already in custody, including people in jail or prison, as well as individuals picked up by local law enforcement on non-immigration matters. Some estimates show that during the last year of President Obama’s presidency, less than 300 individuals were arrested in efforts similar to the recent ICE raids—or what ICE likes to call “targeted enforcement actions.”

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