Speed Reads

immigration crackdown

Under Trump, ICE is detaining way more immigrants with no criminal record

You may have read about some of the recent arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): the Polish-born doctor in Kalamazoo, a legal resident who has lived in the U.S. since he was 5; the Arizona father first brought to the U.S. at age 1, to be deported despite a 5-year-old son with cancer; the college chemistry instructor in Kansas who arrived from Bangladesh 30 years go and was arrested last month while taking his daughter to school; the Virginia mother deported to El Salvador after 11 years because of a traffic stop; the New York immigration activist, Ravi Ragbir, detained in January, earning ICE a rebuke from a federal judge.

President Trump promised to unshackle ICE, and while ICE arrested slightly more immigrants with any sort of criminal conviction (including driving without a license) in fiscal 2017 — 105,736 — immigration agents arrested more than twice as many immigrants with no criminal history, 37,734, The Washington Post reports. The ACLU says ICE appears to be "increasingly targeting activists who publicly oppose or resist the Trump administration's anti-immigrant agenda," stretching the First Amendment.

ICE officials say every arrest or detainment is a legitimate use of law enforcement discretion, and immigration judges make the final decision on deportation, and the Post notes that last year's ICE arrests are actually lower than in the first years of the Obama administration. But critics say ICE agents, given more discretion on who to detain, are picking off low-hanging fruit to meet Trump's quotas, deporting people whose only infraction is being in the U.S. illegally — generally a civil, not criminal, violation.

Former acting ICE director John Swanweg tells the Post there's a question of public safety. ICE has the resources to deport about 200,000 immigrants a year, he says, and "when you remove all priorities, it's like a fisherman who could just get his quota anywhere," and instead of ICE agents going after "the bad criminals, now their job is to fill the beds."