De­por­ta­tions on de­cline in San Diego

So far this year, ICE has mostly tar­geted im­mi­grants there with no crim­i­nal records.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Greg Moran greg.moran@sdunion­tri­bune.com Moran writes for the San Diego Union-Tri­bune.

SAN DIEGO — Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment in San Diego is on pace to de­port fewer peo­ple this year than last, most of them im­mi­grants here il­le­gally with no crim­i­nal record.

As of June 30, ICE has de­ported 16,599 peo­ple from San Diego and Im­pe­rial coun­ties, ac­cord­ing to a sum­mary of re­movals pro­vided by the agency.

Last year, ICE de­ported 23,719 peo­ple from the San Diego and Im­pe­rial re­gion. With the fed­eral fis­cal year end­ing on Sept. 30, it seems likely the agency will end up re­mov­ing fewer im­mi­grants here il­le­gally than last year.

De­spite Pres­i­dent Trump’s cam­paign rhetoric of crack­ing down on im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tors by tar­get­ing “bad hom­bres” and gang mem­bers, most peo­ple be­ing re­moved by ICE in San Diego don’t have crim­i­nal records.

ICE de­ported 6,818 im­mi­grants here il­le­gally with crim­i­nal records in the U.S. through June 30. Dur­ing the same pe­riod, 9,781 in­di­vid­u­als with­out a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion here were de­ported.

The data re­flect the new im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment reg­i­men put in place un­der Trump and Atty. Gen. Jeff Ses­sions, which makes any im­mi­grant in the coun­try il­le­gally a tar­get for de­por­ta­tion — not just those with crim­i­nal records or who are deemed threats to pub­lic safety.

Un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, peo­ple who were in the coun­try il­le­gally but had not com­mit­ted se­ri­ous crimes were not a pri­or­ity for re­moval. In­stead, Obama’s ICE was told to tar­get se­ri­ous crim­i­nal of­fend­ers, leav­ing oth­er­wise lawabid­ing im­mi­grants alone.

That changed in a Jan. 25 ex­ec­u­tive or­der from Trump.

While still em­pha­siz­ing the re­moval of peo­ple with se­ri­ous crim­i­nal con­vic­tions, the or­der ex­panded the pool of peo­ple sub­ject to de­por­ta­tion to in­clude those con­victed of mi­nor crimes, peo­ple who were sim­ply charged with a crime, and those who had prior re­moval or­ders from an im­mi­gra­tion judge but had ig­nored them and con­tin­ued to live in the coun­try.

Lauren Mack, ICE spokes­woman in San Diego, said in a state­ment that the de­por­ta­tion fig­ures re­flect the agency’s new pri­or­i­ties.

“ICE con­ducts tar­geted im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment in com­pli­ance with fed­eral law and agency pol­icy,” she said in an email. “How­ever, as ICE Act­ing Di­rec­tor Thomas Ho­man has made clear, ICE does not ex­empt classes or cat­e­gories of re­mov­able aliens from po­ten­tial en­force­ment.

“All of those in vi­o­la­tion of the im­mi­gra­tion laws may be sub­ject to im­mi­gra­tion ar­rest, de­ten­tion and, if found re­mov­able by fi­nal or­der, re­moval from the United States.”

San Diego im­mi­gra­tion lawyer Es­ther Valdes said she has seen the change in pri­or­i­ties in her law prac­tice. It’s not un­com­mon for ICE agents to go to a home or work­place to pick up one per­son they have tar­geted be­cause of a crim­i­nal record — and come out with sev­eral im­mi­grants here il­le­gally with no crim­i­nal con­vic­tions but still sub­ject to de­por­ta­tion.

“We’re see­ing these clus­ters of peo­ple be­ing picked up, not just one or two,” she said.

Peter K. Nunez, a former U.S. at­tor­ney in San Diego and board mem­ber for the Cen­ter of Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, said the de­por­ta­tion numbers are not sur­pris­ing.

“The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion made it clear that if you were a non-crim­i­nal, you had noth­ing to fear,” he said. “What Trump and Ses­sions made clear is while they’ll con­tinue to pri­or­i­tize crim­i­nal aliens, it’s not to the ex­clu­sion of other peo­ple who were sub­ject to de­por­ta­tion.”

The rise in non-crim­i­nal de­por­ta­tions in San Diego runs counter to emerg­ing na­tional trends since Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion. In April, CNN cited ICE na­tional data that showed 30,00 con­victed crim­i­nals and 23,000 non-crim­i­nals de­ported since Jan­uary.

His­tor­i­cally, ICE de­ports more crim­i­nals an­nu­ally than non-crim­i­nals, but that has var­ied in San Diego over the years. In 2014 and 2015, more peo­ple with crim­i­nal con­vic­tions were de­ported than non-crim­i­nals, but the op­po­site was true in 2013.

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