De­por­ta­tions lag­ging un­der Trump, but im­mi­gra­tion ar­rests rise sharply

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY MARIA SACCHETTI maria.sacchetti@wash­post.com

Pres­i­dent Trump vowed to im­me­di­ately de­port “bad hom­bres” from the United States, but the lat­est statis­tics from fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials show that he is un­likely to meet his goal of ex­pelling 2 mil­lion to 3 mil­lion crim­i­nals any­time soon.

In Jan­uary, the United States de­ported 9,913 crim­i­nals. Af­ter a slight uptick un­der Trump, ex­pul­sions sank to 9,600 crim­i­nals in June, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics re­quested by The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Mostly, de­por­ta­tions un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion have re­mained lower than in past years un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. In the first six months of the year, Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment de­ported 61,370 im­mi­grants with crim­i­nal records, down from 70,603 in the same pe­riod last year.

Ad­vo­cates on both sides of the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate said they think that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­fort is still gath­er­ing steam and that ICE plans to ex­pand de­por­ta­tions in the months ahead. Im­mi­gra­tion ar­rests rose to 13,945 in June, 45 per­cent above Jan­uary’s to­tal.

“De­por­ta­tions un­der Obama col­lapsed in the last few years, and turn­ing that around isn’t just a ques­tion of snap­ping your fin­gers,” said Mark Kriko­rian, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, which fa­vors stricter con­trols on im­mi­gra­tion. “Six months from now, we might see some­thing very dif­fer­ent.”

Dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, Trump vowed to tar­get crim­i­nals for de­por­ta­tion and warned that they would be “go­ing out fast.” Later, he sug­gested he would try to find a so­lu­tion for the “ter­rific peo­ple,” such as those with clean records, but that has not ma­te­ri­al­ized.

While peo­ple with crim­i­nal records ac­count for three-fourths of the 75,000 im­mi­gra­tion ar­rests this year, the fastest-grow­ing tar­get un­der Trump ap­pears to be im­mi­grants with­out crim­i­nal records.

About 19,700 im­mi­grants with no crim­i­nal records were ar­rested in the first half of the year, more than dou­ble the num­ber in the same pe­riod last year. ICE has said that any­one in the United States il­le­gally is sub­ject to de­por­ta­tion, un­like un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who had said im­mi­grants with long-stand­ing ties to the United States and clean records were not a pri­or­ity for de­por­ta­tion.

John Sandweg, an act­ing di­rec­tor of ICE un­der Obama, said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach is likely sab­o­tag­ing the pres­i­dent’s at­tempts to de­port crim­i­nals by fun­nel­ing more non­crim­i­nal cases into the clogged im­mi­gra­tion courts, where 600,000 cases are pend­ing.

“By fo­cus­ing on non­crim­i­nal cases, you’re burn­ing re­sources that would oth­er­wise be ded­i­cated to crim­i­nals,” he said. “There are only so many seats on the bus.”

An­other ma­jor rea­son for the de­cline in de­por­ta­tions is that il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings have plunged since Trump took of­fice, he said. Im­mi­grants caught at the bor­der ac­counted for more than half of de­por­ta­tions un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion since 2012, ac­cord­ing to ICE records.

Over­all, of­fi­cials de­ported more than 105,000 im­mi­grants in the first half of this year, 42 per­cent of whom had no crim­i­nal records, down from 121,170 in the same pe­riod last year.

Some ad­vo­cates say Trump’s jar­ring rhetoric may prompt some im­mi­grants to leave on their own.

His ad­min­is­tra­tion has at­tacked sanc­tu­ary cities, lo­cal­i­ties that refuse to de­tain im­mi­grants to be picked up by fed­eral agents, and has em­braced leg­is­la­tion that would curb le­gal and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. And the ad­min­is­tra­tion has floated the pos­si­bil­ity that hun­dreds of thou­sands of un­doc­u­mented mi­grants pro­tected from de­por­ta­tion un­der Obama might lose their per­mis­sion to stay in the United States.

Texas and other states have threat­ened to sue the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion by Sept. 5 if it does not stop re­new­ing work per­mits for nearly 800,000 un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who have been in the United States since child­hood. And Haitians, one of the first groups that could lose tem­po­rary pro­tec­tion granted af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing 2010 earth­quake in the Caribbean coun­try, are stream­ing into Canada.

“It’s pretty clear that they are mov­ing in­ex­orably to ramp­ing up de­por­ta­tions by get­ting just about who­ever they get their hands on,” said Frank Sharry, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Amer­ica’s Voice, a non­profit that ad­vo­cates for im­mi­grants.

ICE re­leased the ar­rest and de­por­ta­tion fig­ures Thurs­day, two days af­ter the Jus­tice De­part­ment an­nounced that from Fe­bru­ary to July, im­mi­gra­tion courts or­dered 57,069 peo­ple to leave the United States, a nearly 31 per­cent in­crease over the same pe­riod last year.

How­ever, Jus­tice of­fi­cials have not said how many of the im­mi­grants or­dered de­ported were ac­tu­ally in cus­tody — or whether their where­abouts are even known. Ev­ery year, thou­sands of im­mi­grants are or­dered de­ported in ab­sen­tia, mean­ing that they did not at­tend their hear­ings and could not im­me­di­ately be re­moved from the coun­try.

Im­mi­gra­tion ar­rest and court records are gen­er­ally not avail­able to the pub­lic, so the gov­ern­ment’s statis­tics could not be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied.

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