Carlos, Guatemalan, father of 5, at 6.30 a.m. was loading the tools on his truck when immigration officers stopped him asking information on his neighbours linked to the ongoing round-up operations. The man was unable to answer all their questions as he was unaware of illegal activities in that neighbourhood. He was asked to produce his documents and now he risks being deported because he was found without residence and working permits. It happened in Houston, Texas, one of the States – along with Florida and Oklahoma – which, according to the Pew Center, registered a +50% increase in ICE arrests in the course of 2017. According to data released by the agency, ICE made a total of 143,470 arrests, a 30% rise compared to 2016. Moreover, from the end of January until September ICE made 110,568 arrests, 42% more than in 2016.
Many of those arrested are considered victims of so-called “collateral arrests”, i.e., when during an inspection in a store or building yard or during a round up, law enforcement agents who were not seeking undocumented migrants inquire on the status of those present. Unauthorised migrants who happened to be in the place they were raiding are arrested. Many civil rights attorneys consider it a practice that violates the constitution and the interrogatories as being motivated by racial and discriminatory reasons.
Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25 that expanded ICE’s enforcement focus to most immigrants in the U.S. without authorization, regardless of whether they have a criminal record. Under the previous US Administration those convicted of serious crimes were the major focus, but now the scope has been expanded. Miami ranks first in the list of cities with the greatest number of arrests followed by Dallas and St. Paul, by New Orleans, Atlanta, Boston and Detroit.
The New York area had among the fewest total ICE arrests in 2017 (approximately 2.600), the New York City metro area – home to one of the nation’s largest unauthorized immigrant populations, according to Pew Research Center estimates.
New York has limited cooperation with federal immigration procedures and has attempted to boost its “sanctuary city” status by expanding protections for unauthorized immigrants.
It should be noted that many of “sanctuary cities” policies were enacted long before Trump took office, although since then they have been extended to many cities. Nonetheless immigration officials placed under arrest 498 people in cities that limit police cooperation with the immigration agency. This has caused many appeals to State and Federal Courts.
Surprisingly, arrests decreased in areas located on the Mexican border, as many as 310 531 according to customs protection agents, the lowest figure in the past 45 years, amounting to a 25% decrease compared to 2016.
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, director of the Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program, told LATimes that “the randomization of immigration enforcement is a choice between prioritizing criminals and prioritizing fear, and it seems they’ve chosen the latter.” His strategy and that of many advocates now is “to continue asking judges to throw out deportation orders for immigrants who are detained during collateral arrests.” It’s the case of Juan Hernandez, at whose workplace, two agents who didn’t identify themselves, with guns drawn ordered everyone — the owner, three mechanics, a customer and a vendor who was in his truck — to freeze and put their hands up. They arrested them all, including the owner of the shop, who had an outstanding deportation order. Hernandez spent more than a month in prison before being released on bond. He will undergo trial in court on charges of undocumented immigration. His case hit front-page news and forced the Immigration agency to issue a public statement claiming that “ICE does NOT target individuals based on religion, ethnicity, gender or race. Any suggestion to the contrary is patently false.” Unfortunately that is not the belief of many human rights activists and advocates, nor is it that of Carlos and Juan.