Irshad Salim — Federal immigration agents are arresting more than 400 immigrants a day in the U.S. — a sharp increase from last year — nearly 40 percent, and reflects one of President Trump’s most far-reaching campaign promises.
More than 41,000 people suspected of being in the country illegally have been detained — with a renewed focus on immigrants without criminal convictions.
The numbers released by Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan provide a snapshot of how the new president is carrying through on his campaign promises to make immigration enforcement a top priority.
Homan said the increase in arrests stems from stepped up immigration enforcement, adding that morale has improved among agents under Trump because they are “allowed to do their job.”
“Their job is to enforce the law, and that is exactly what they’re doing, he said.
In Trump’s first 100 days in office, ICE agents arrested 41,318 immigrants, up 38 percent over the same period last year.
Almost three out of four of those arrested have criminal records, including gang members and fugitives wanted for murder. But the biggest increase by far is among immigrants with no criminal records.
Gregory Chen, government relations director for the American Immigration Lawyers Association said, “This administration is fully implementing its mass-deportation agenda”…”They’re going after people who have lived here for a long time.”
However, advocates for undocumented immigrants say the numbers will add to the fears of longtime, otherwise law-abiding residents who felt spared from deportation under the Obama administration, reported The Washington Post.
Days after Trump took office, he issued an executive order that made clear that anyone in the United States illegally could be deported and ended former President Obama’s policy of frequently granting reprieves from deportation to undocumented immigrants with clean criminal records or U.S.-born children.
Homan said the statistics released Wednesday show that agents still prioritize lawbreakers: 30,473 criminals were arrested from Jan. 22 to April 29, an 18-percent increase from the same period in 2016.
At the same time, arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to nearly 11,000, the fastest-growing category by far.
“Will the number of non-criminal arrests and removals increase this year? Absolutely,” Homan said. “That’s enforcing the laws that are on the books.”
What is less clear is what is happening to the immigrants who are being taken into custody.
Homan did not say how many of the 41,318 people whose arrests were announced Wednesday have been deported, remain in custody or have been released.
Advocates also question the wisdom of arresting thousands of more immigrants — especially those who pose no known public safety threat — when immigration courts are severely backlogged.
Trump has called for additional immigration judges and detention space to speed deportations.
In his last two years in office, Obama curtailed deportations somewhat, and emphasized that ICE should try to spare law-abiding residents and those with U.S.-born children.
Under Trump, many of those limits are gone — with the exception of a program that protected undocumented immigrants who came to America as children.
Top Mexican official promises funds to provide legal defense to immigrants
Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s foreign relations minister, pledged Wednesday in Dallas that his government will legally defend immigrants against Texas’ tough new “sanctuary cities” law.
Mexican immigrants are living in “unprecedented times” with spreading fear and anxiety, Videgaray said. That announcement followed a special meeting among Mexico’s 11 Texas consuls on a defense strategy in the state.
The “sanctuary cities” measure, or Senate Bill 4, is now the harshest immigration law in the U.S., legal experts say. It expands local law enforcement power over immigration powers.
“The fear is there and we see it in all its intensity in our consulates,” Videgaray said.
Mexican migration down
Mexicans make up about half of the country’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants. More Mexicans are leaving than coming to the U.S., and net migration has been at zero in recent years, the Pew Research Center reports.