President Donald Trump promised to crack down on illegal immigration during the campaign, and his tough talk appears to have translated into measurable action, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests are up in the first few months of his presidency.
Immigration arrests rose 33 percent in the first weeks of the Trump administration, according to a report from the Washington Post, which obtained arrest data from ICE. Agents arrested 21,362 illegal immigrants, most of them convicted criminals, from January 20 through March 13. The total number of immigration arrests was 16,104 for the same period in 2016.
The data bear out a shift in immigration enforcement priorities under the Trump administration. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have recently confirmed that immigration agents and federal prosecutors are expanding their efforts to single out any illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds, including non-violent crimes such as fraud and DUI. (RELATED: Jeff Sessions Doubles Down On Trump’s Campaign Promises)
Stepped-up immigration enforcement has also targeted so-called “non-criminal” aliens: those who are unlawfully present in the U.S. but who have not been convicted of another crime. ICE has arrested 5,441 such illegal immigrants since Trump took office, more than double the number arrested during the same time-frame last year. (RELATED: John Kelly: ‘Even A Single DUI’ Could Start Deportation For Illegal Aliens)
The WaPo report, which divided immigration arrests into two categories, did not indicate if illegal immigrants with final orders of removal or those who had re-entered the U.S. after a previous deportation were included in the “non-criminal” arrest total. Re-entry after removal is a federal felony.
ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez says the category of “non-criminal” alien refers to individuals without separate criminal convictions, including illegal immigrants who’ve re-entered the U.S. after being deported but who have not yet been convicted of that offense.
“A non-criminal alien who reenters after receiving a final order or removal would still need to be prosecuted under federal law and convicted to be counted as a criminal alien,” Rodriguez told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.
Critics of the Trump administration’s immigration policies say the targeting of “non-criminal” illegal aliens goes too far and ultimately undermines relations between immigrant communities and law enforcement.
“My sense is that ICE is emboldened in a way that I have never seen,” Dan Satterberg, the top prosecutor in Washington state’s King County, told WaPo. “The federal government, in really just a couple of months, has undone decades of work that we have done to build this trust.”
However, some of the indignation may be more political than professional. As WaPo noted, the number of immigration arrests in Trump’s first two months is far below the total over the same time period in 2014 when the Obama administration arrested 29,238 illegal immigrants. Of those, 7,483 were of “non-criminal” aliens.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he as received more complaints over the city’s immigration policies this year than under Obama in a recent interview, according to WaPo.
“It’s all got to do with the president,” the Republican mayor said. “Most of it has to do with politics. It’s sad.”
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