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The Trump Administration at Six Months: A Sea Change in Immigration Enforcement

July 21, 2017 (1 min read)

Muzaffar Chishti and Jessica Bolter, MPI, July 19, 2017 - "Reaching its six-month mark in office on July 20, the Trump administration is making good on Donald Trump’s campaign promises to ratchet up immigration enforcement. Acting swiftly during his early days in office, the president issued executive orders to further stiffen enforcement along the border and cast a wider net in the U.S. interior. Those orders, accompanied by agency memoranda that change longstanding policy in a range of areas, have resulted in stark shifts in immigration enforcement within U.S. communities.

During the final years of the Obama administration, just 13 percent of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants were considered a priority for deportation because of a disqualifying criminal conviction, recent removal order, or recent illegal entry, according to Migration Policy Institute estimates. The Trump administration expanded the pool dramatically with its executive order on interior enforcement, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have made clear that all unauthorized immigrants have broken the law and are, therefore, subject to removal.

While U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) still targets specific individuals for arrest, often based on criminal activity, the agency also takes into custody unauthorized immigrants incidentally encountered during these operations. Those in the country illegally “should be uncomfortable,” the acting ICE Director said recently. “You should look over your shoulder.”

This represents a sea change in enforcement thinking and practice. The move from a tight focus on explicit priorities to enforcement where almost any unauthorized immigrant encountered by immigration officials can be removed is altering behaviors and generating deep anxiety within immigrant communities, both unauthorized and legal. At the same time, the available data suggest that the actual increases in immigration arrests during the Trump administration’s first six months are not as dramatic as its executive orders and other policy pronouncements would indicate—or as the anxiety level in immigrant communities might suggest. [More...]"