History > 2017 > USA > Immigration (I)
Immigration Arrests Rise Sharply
as a Trump Mandate Is Carried Out
MAY 17, 2017
The New York Times
By CAITLIN DICKERSON
Immigration arrests shot up 38 percent in the first three months
of the Trump administration compared with the same period last year, according
to figures released Wednesday, one of the first clear indications that the
president’s hard-line policies are being carried out on a grand scale.
While President Trump’s more attention-grabbing ideas have been blocked or
stalled, like building a border wall and temporarily stopping travel from some
Muslim-majority countries, the statistics released by federal Immigration and
Customs Enforcement suggested that the more street-level aspects of his
immigration agenda have achieved significant results, and quickly.
From Jan. 22 to April 29, ICE officers arrested 41,318 people, at a rate of more
than 400 people per day, compared with 30,028 over roughly the same period in
2016, the data showed.
“These statistics reflect President Trump’s commitment to enforce our
immigration laws fairly and across the board,” said Thomas Homan, the acting
director of ICE, on a phone call with reporters.
Thomas Homan, left, the acting director of the United States Immigration and
Customs Enforcement agency, and Derek Benner, of Homeland Security
investigations, at a news conference in Washington last week to announce the
results of a national operation targeting gang members and associates. Credit
Susan Walsh/Associated Press
Many of the arrests took place at immigrants’ homes, as teams of agents spread
out in the early hours of the morning to catch people before they left for work,
a common tactic designed to avoid a public scene. But agents also have been
moving more aggressively, taking into custody people who arrived for routine
check-ins, and even apprehending people arriving at courthouses on
The rapid increase in arrests was primarily the result of one of Mr. Trump’s
first significant immigration moves, rescinding rules laid down by former
President Barack Obama that prioritized the arrest of the most serious criminals
and largely left other undocumented immigrants alone. More than half of the
increase in arrests were of immigrants who had committed no crime other than
being in the country without permission.
Mr. Obama’s policy was rooted in both humanitarian and budgetary reasons, but to
Mr. Trump and his supporters, and many ICE agents, it represented a failure to
enforce the law and a de facto amnesty for millions of people in the United
Supporters of Mr. Trump’s immigration policies welcomed the news. “I feel that’s
one step in the right direction, I definitely feel that way,” said J. D. Ma, a
lawyer in Clarksville, Md., who voted for Hillary Clinton but agreed with the
president on immigration. “The reality is that if you don’t do that, that’s
going to encourage wave after wave and disrupt the order of the society.”
At the same time, the wider net has frustrated some local law
enforcement officials who have pointed to evidence that arrests, especially
those at courthouses, were discouraging undocumented immigrants from reporting
crimes. Since Mr. Trump was elected, reports by Latinos of sexual assaults and
domestic violence have declined sharply.
“What it tells me is that the department is willing to put enforcement numbers
ahead of any kind of strategy that would actually try to keep us all safer going
forward,” said Omar Jadwat, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at
the American Civil Liberties Union.
Aware of the criticism, the federal authorities have frequently noted that a
majority of those arrested — 75 percent in Mr. Trump’s first three months — were
still people with criminal records.
Those swept up have committed a broad range of offenses. Guadalupe García de
Rayos, a mother in Arizona, had used a false Social Security number to work at a
water park. Juan Antonio Melchor Molina, a fugitive from Mexico, is wanted on a
Although agents are no longer limited in whom they can pick up, Mr. Homan said
that more than 2,700 of those arrested had been convicted of serious crimes like
assault, rape or murder.
“If you look at the numbers, the men and women of ICE are still prioritizing
these arrests in a way that makes sense,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s policies also appear to have slowed the flow of people crossing the
southern border illegally, which has reached its lowest number in years, as
migrants are choosing to seek refuge in other countries or endure poor
conditions at home.
Unless they have already been ordered deported by a judge, immigrants who are
arrested can plead their case in immigration courts, which have been snarled by
a backlog that exceeds half a million cases. Over all, Mr. Homan said that
deportations were down 12 percent from the previous year, partly because of a
steep decline in illegal border crossings.
The increase in arrests under President Trump is less stark compared with 2011,
when President Obama’s immigration agency apprehended 351,029 people, or about
29,000 a month. But arrests and deportations decreased in the years that
followed as the Obama administration narrowed its focus to serious criminals.
Other aspects of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda have not produced such quick
results. His border wall has yet to be funded by Congress and his travel bans
have been blocked by courts. Last month, a federal judge in San Francisco halted
the Justice Department’s plans to financially punish so-called sanctuary cities
that limit how much local police and jails may cooperate with ICE.
But at the current rate of arrests, ICE may surpass the highest annual numbers
it reached under Mr. Obama in Mr. Trump’s very first year.
“That’s great news!” said Scott Hayes, a landscaper from Beverly, Mass. Mr.
Hayes said he lost two more accounts this year because he was undercut on price,
one of them, he believes, to illegal immigrants.
He said the changes under Mr. Trump were being felt in his area. Mr. Hayes said
he was going out to mow a lawn last week and a friend from another landscaping
company came running up to him. The friend said the owner of that company was
furious with Mr. Trump.
“I said, over what?” Mr. Hayes said. “He said he can’t find any help! Trump is
kicking them all out!”
Mr. Hayes added: “That’s why I was so passionate for Trump,” he said. “I wanted
to expose these guys for who they are, if they are hiring illegal immigrants.”
Correction: May 19, 2017
An article on Thursday about a sharp increase in immigration arrests referred
imprecisely to one voter’s support for President Trump. J.D. Ma supports the
president’s policies on illegal immigration but voted for Hillary Clinton, not
for Mr. Trump.
Sabrina Tavernise contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on May 18, 2017, on Page A22 of the
New York edition with the headline: Immigration Arrests Rise Sharply as Agents
Carry Out a Trump Mandate.
Immigration Arrests Rise Sharply as a Trump Mandate Is Carried
May 17, 2017,