Under the purview of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, arrests of undocumented migrants with no criminal record have more than tripled.
The trend—scarcely surprising with its figures and estimates—was quantified by NBC News, which analyzed publicly available data from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The surge, writes, NBC, appears to be caused by tactics recently adopted by ICE. Immigrants are increasingly being arrested off the street, pulled from cars or taken from sidewalks without warrants. A class action suit filed in June suggests that ‘sweeps,’ conducted in areas where undocumented aliens are thought to congregate, also occurs.
While President Barack Obama was often criticized by immigration advocates—he even earned the moniker ‘Deporter-in-Chief’—administrative arrests of aliens without criminal records has shot up since Trump took office. Such arrests spiked at about 203 percent in the first 14 months of Trump’s administration compared to the last 14 of Obama’s.
In terms of numbers, Obama oversaw 19,128 deportations in 14 months while Trump’s ordered close to 60,000.
Arrests of undocumented immigrants without criminal records has risen by nearly 20% in the same time.
An ICE spokesperson explained the difference in terminology to NBC. In most contexts, an administrative arrest refers to an immigrant detained on suspicion of breaking civil law. Conversely, criminal convictions can include petty offenses, like jaywalking, on up to misdemeanors and serious felonies. Previous immigration violations could also count as criminal, depending on how the perpetrator was arraigned and sentenced.
One of the attorneys who’s suing ICE over its “sweeps” says some of ICE’s investigative functions are novel, put into effect only since President Trump’s inauguration.
“What’s really different about this enforcement action is that they are literally doing roving stops, whether by car or on foot, stopping people without any sort of articulable facts,” said attorney Mark Fleming, associate director of litigation at the Immigrant Justice Center. “It sends a message to the Hispanic community that we intend to racially profile you in your communities.”
NBC notes that immigration advocates weren’t fond of Obama’s policies, either.
Nevertheless, the last administration focused more on arresting and removing hardcore criminals and members of organized crime syndicates than ordinary, otherwise-law-abiding aliens.
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained the difference in approach as ‘taking the shackles off’ enforcement.
Immigration watchdogs say the shackles seem to have been disproportionately taken off in cities that make an active attempt to protect their undocumented residents. Sanctuary cities, scattered across the nation, limit the extent to which local law enforcement can cooperate with agencies like ICE. Since information about prisoners and detainees are withheld from the federal government, agents say they’ve little choice but to take matters into their own hands.
“While the vast majority of cities in America do cooperate with ICE, others like San Francisco and Oakland force ICE to focus additional resources to conduct at-large arrests in the community… increasing the incidents of collateral arrests,” an ICE press release in February 2018 claimed.
Fleming and his colleagues suit against the agency takes issue with the tactics used to enable such ‘collateral arrests.’ NBC gives the example of a plaintiff who was pulled by ICE officials for driving with low tire pressure—even though ICE has no authority to enforce local traffic laws.