Immigration arrests are up 32.6% in the first two months of the Trump administration over the same period a year ago. Statistics assembled by The Washington Post show that the perception in immigrant communities of increased Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity is well-founded. In the period from Trump’s inauguration until mid-March, arrests rose from 16,104 to 21,362 this year. A large contributor to the increase is the arrest of 5,441 immigrants without any criminal background.
In President Obama’s second term, immigrants without a criminal record were not a priority for ICE. Under the Trump administration’s new policies, these working men and women are fodder for the deportation mill. According to The Washington Post: “Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled…the clearest sign yet that President Trump has ditched his predecessor’s protective stance toward most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.” An ICE spokesperson said that Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly “has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” There was also a sharp increase in ICE detainer requests, up 75% from last year.
Paradoxically, the number of people deported actually fell slightly during the first weeks of the Trump administration. As the president has found out, the arrest is only the start of the process of removing someone from this country. The understaffed immigration courts can take more than two years to try a case. President Trump’s plan to move judges to the border will likely further increase delays in places like New York. Immigration lawyers have already begun receiving notices re-scheduling their upcoming immigration court hearings for later dates.
Arrests have increased, but their impact should not be exaggerated. While ICE may be making more arrests, the staffing of the agency has not increased. The large raids most feared by immigrants will not occur before the next fiscal year, and only if the next budget has funding for new ICE hires.