Even in the absence of any newly signed executive orders, immigration topics continue to dominate the news cycle. This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency tasked with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, released a report confirming that during the first 100 days of President Trump’s administration, arrests and detention of undocumented foreign nationals increased 38% when compared to the same time period last year. The Acting Director of ICE, Mr. Thomas Homan, stated that his agency has refocused its enforcement efforts toward apprehending undocumented foreign nationals with criminal records. But the numbers would seem to disagree. The same report contains data that indicates the arrests of undocumented foreign nationals without criminal records rose 156% from last year. Additionally, between January 2017 and April 2017, more than 10,000 people who were arrested had only immigration violations on their record. This figure represents nearly triple the same type of arrests during the same period last year.
Policies Behind the Report
The Executive Director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigrant advocate group, commented that the President’s true goal for his administration is to carry out large-scale mass deportations. This sentiment may in fact be true because ICE agents have been empowered to arrest more non-criminal undocumented foreign nationals as part of the President’s January 25 executive order. Amongst other controversial provisions, this order expanded the pool of deportation “priorities” to include undocumented foreign nationals. In contrast, under former President Obama’s policy, a foreign national’s undocumented status was not enough to make them an enforcement priority. Instead, the person needed to be a member of a gang or have significant misdemeanors or felonies on their record in order to be considered a priority.
Another reason for the uptick in arrests may be the new directives that Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly handed down in February. These directives included empowering ICE agents to arrest undocumented foreign nationals whom they encountered while searching for a different person. Under former President Obama, agents only arrested those individuals for whom they were specifically searching but not others whom they came across or visited as part of their enforcement efforts.
The Republicans’ New Immigration Bill
Additionally, two prominent Republican members of Congress are currently writing a bill that seeks to, among other provisions, “punish” so-called sanctuary cities by greatly expanding the categories of federal grants that could be denied to these jurisdictions. Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Michael McCaul, both from Texas, are working on the bill together. The current version also includes the establishment of a five-year minimum sentence for foreign nationals who illegally re-enter the country after deportation, as well as the requirement that parents of undocumented foreign national children be forced to wear ankle monitors as a measure to ensure their children attend deportation hearings.
The only silver lining to this cloud is the fact that, should the bill come to the Senate, it will almost certainly not survive because the Democrats have made it clear that they will not pass any sort of immigration-related legislation that does not include a path to citizenship for certain classes of currently undocumented foreign nationals.
Republican lawmakers are pushing legislation that would bring sweeping changes to the nation’s immigration enforcement apparatus, including adding thousands of new deportation officers.
The little noticed bills, marked up in the House Judiciary Committee this past Thursday, would bring additional legal force to the Trump administration’s hard line immigration agenda, which has already seen the pool of individuals prioritized for deportation broadened to include virtually all the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The bill echoes Trump’s call to increase ICE’s ranks with the addition of 10,000 new agents, as well as 2,500 new detention officers and 60 new full-time ICE prosecutors. Deportation officers on the ground would inherit new arrest powers under the proposed legislation, including the power to arrest immigrants accused of criminal or civil offenses without a warrant, even if the Agency determines those individuals are not “likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained.” Under the bill, those deportation officers would be heavily armed, with each officer issued “high-quality body armor” and “at a minimum, standard-issue handguns, M–4 (or equivalent) rifles, and tasers.” Keep in mind, this increase in force would come about in concert with the government lowering standards for employment as a federal law enforcement officer. No longer would an agent be required to pass a polygraph test prior to being hired.
This draconian bill does nothing to protect our communities; indeed, the argument that we become less safe under this bill is definitely not without merit. If you voted for Trump, you should be angry that this does bill does nothing to fix the broken immigration system with which we continue to struggle.
Additional Blog Posts
The Possible Impact of Sequestration for Employers and Immigrant Workers, ImmigRantings, April 22, 2013
More States Expected to Exert Control Regarding Illegal Immigration Problems, ImmigRantings, August 3, 2013