Can Trump hit re­set on de­por­ta­tion?

Shifts on sig­na­ture is­sue raise ques­tions

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Brian Ben­nett

WASH­ING­TON — Dur­ing a week of ping-pong­ing im­mi­gra­tion stances, Don­ald Trump ap­pears to be shift­ing his po­si­tion from one which ini­tially called for the de­por­ta­tion of all 11 mil­lion peo­ple here il­le­gally to one that would fo­cus on “crim­i­nal” im­mi­grants.

Though it is true that some in the U.S. il­le­gally have crim­i­nal records, the ma­jor­ity of those have vi­o­lated only im­mi­gra­tion laws or com­mit­ted other non­vi­o­lent of­fenses, not the mur­ders and as­saults that Trump of­ten brings up dur­ing stump speeches.

Af­ter a back­lash from sup­port­ers wor­ried he is back­ing down on a key cam­paign prom­ise, Trump is now said to be re­con­sid­er­ing his change in pol­icy. He is ex­pected to out­line his ideas Wed­nes­day even­ing dur­ing a speech in Ari­zona.

Q: What does Trump want to do?

A: It’s not en­tirely clear. Though he still plans to build a wall along the Mex­ico bor­der, he be­gan speak­ing in re­cent days about “soft­en­ing” his pol­icy. In a Fox News in­ter­view, he spoke about back­ing away from his ear­lier call to cre­ate a “de­por­ta­tion force” that would round up and kick out all im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally, in­clud­ing their Amer­i­can-born chil­dren in some cases.

In re­cent days, he has said he would in­stead fo­cus de­por­ta­tions on those with crim­i­nal records.

Trump hasn’t said what spe­cific pol­icy changes would help im­mi­gra­tion agents find con­victed crimi- Im­mi­gra­tion has placed Queens, N.Y., in one of the five most di­verse coun­ties in the U.S. nals and speed up their de­por­ta­tion. But he has in­sisted that law en­force­ment agents knowwhoand­where they are.

Q: What is dif­fer­ent from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach?

A: Not much ac­tu­ally. Af­ter sus­pected spies and ter­ror­ists, con­victed crim­i­nals are al­ready in­cluded in the high­est pri­or­ity cat­e­gory for de­por­ta­tion.

Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment records say the agency de­ported 235,413 peo­ple last year, down from a record 409,849 in 2012. Over that time, the per­cent­age of im­mi­grants de­ported with crim­i­nal con­vic­tions in­creased from 55 per­cent in 2012, to 59 per­cent in 2015.

Of those de­ported from the in­te­rior of the U.S., 91 per­cent had crim­i­nal con­vic­tions in 2015, ac­cord­ing to ICE sta­tis­tics. That num­ber was higher be­cause it ex­cludes de­por­ta­tions that oc­cur closer to the bor­der, where the le­gal and lo­gis­ti­cal hur­dles are lower.

Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials say the to­tal num­ber of re­movals is down be­cause a large per­cent­age of peo­ple now ap­pre­hended are from Cen­tral Amer­ica, and it takes longer to send peo­ple back to coun­tries that don’t share a bor­der with the U.S.

Q: How many im­mi­grants have crim­i­nal records, and what are the most com­mon crimes?

A: Ex­act fig­ures are hard to find be­cause im­mi­grants here il­le­gally of­ten live in the shad­ows and aren’t al­ways iden­ti­fied in crime sta­tis­tics.

But stud­ies have in­di­cated that even as the num­ber of im­mi­grants in the U.S. il­le­gally tripled be­tween 1990 and 2013, the vi­o­lent crime rate de­clined 48 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a 2015 re­port from the Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Coun­cil.

The same re­port found the rate of in­car­cer­a­tion is lower among all types of im­mi­grants in the U.S. than na­tive- born Amer­i­cans; roughly 1.6 per­cent of im­mi­grant males age 18-39 are in­car­cer­ated, com­pared to 3.3 per­cent of na­tive-born Amer­i­can men of that age.

Among im­mi­grants with crim­i­nal con­vic­tions who were de­ported from the U.S., by far the most com­mon felony con­vic­tion, about 31 per­cent, is an im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tion, in­clud­ing en­try, re-en­try, false claims to cit­i­zen­ship and alien smug­gling, ac­cord­ing to Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment data from 2013.

About 15 per­cent of of­fenses are re­lated to “dan­ger­ous drugs,” in­clud­ing pos­ses­sion, sale, dis­tri­bu­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing.

As­sault charges make up about 10 per­cent of crim­i­nal de­por­ta­tions.

Q: What has been the re­ac­tion of Trump sup­port­ers?

A: Mixed. Some think his will­ing­ness to em­brace a more hu­mane ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion re­form will win over mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans.

But ad­vo­cates of hard­line im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies say they feel be­trayed. They would still like to see Trump or­der im­mi­gra­tion agents to de­port any­one they find who is in the coun­try il­le­gally, rather than fo­cus solely on re­cent ar­rivals, re­peat im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tors, and con­victed crim­i­nals, as the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has done.

SPENCER PLATT/GETTY

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