Feds Round Up 650 Illegal Immigrants for Deportation
Included in enforcement operation were 130 with criminal convictions for DUI, sexual assault, domestic abuse, drugs
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers last week swept up 650 illegal immigrants, a fifth of whom had criminal records and nearly a third of whom were part of the wave of unaccompanied minors, authorities said Tuesday.
The four-day sweep was the second phase of Operation Border Guardian/Border Resolve, launched last year to focus on the unaccompanied minor surge at the Mexican-American border that began in summer 2014.
Officials said all of the people targeted last week have final orders of deportation, with no pending appeals in immigration courts. ICE arrested 120 youths who had entered illegally and an additional 73 adults who had traveled with children — people the government describes as “family units.”
ICE officers also arrested 457 other illegal immigrants they encountered during the operation.
Of the total, 130 had criminal convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, assault and battery, drug possession, domestic abuse, sexual assault, and other offenses.
"Illegally entering the United States as a family unit or UAC [unaccompanied alien children] does not protect individuals from being subject to the immigration laws of this country," acting ICE Director Tom Homan said in a prepared statement. "I urge anyone considering making the dangerous and unlawful journey to the United States: Please do not take this risk. Ultimately, if you have no basis to remain in the United States, you will be identified, apprehended and returned to your home country."
Former President Barack Obama took heat from some of his allies for raids announced just before Christmas in 2015. But critics argued the administration's response was little more than show; the 121 arrested during that operation represented just a trickle of the total who had come.
Asked about the current policy, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman referred LifeZette to 2016 Senate testimony by then-acting Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello, indicating that the policy has not changed since Trump took office.
Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA, and other critics of Obama-era policies contend that the border surge of Central American youths was the direct result of the former president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offered protections for illegal immigrants brought to America as children. The program did not apply to newcomers, but many Central Americans did not realize that.
The number of unaccompanied minors and adults crossing the southwest border jumped from 53,614 in fiscal year 2013 to 136,986 in fiscal year 2014. After dipping to 79,808 in fiscal year 2015, the total surged again the following year, to 137,366.
In the first nine months of the current fiscal year, 96,447 have come, according to Customs and Border Protection statistics.
The Obama administration's policy was to allow illegal-immigrant teenagers to live with relatives in the United States while immigration courts determined whether they had a legal claim to stay. Critics contended that the practice amounted to completing the journey begun by smugglers. Many of those unaccompanied minors never show up for their court dates and disappear into the interior of the country.
Chmielenski said President Donald Trump's administration has started to change that.
"It's a little bit better than it was under Obama," he said. "But what's really handcuffing them is a lack of detention space … So there is still a little bit of catch and release going on, but not as much as in the Obama administration."
Jessica Vaughan said arresting other illegal immigrants who were not specifically targeted does represent a significant change. Under Obama, ICE would not have arrested those illegal immigrants who did not have criminal convictions that met the administration's guidelines.
"The criteria are wider now than they ever were under Obama," she said. "There are fewer people who are off the table who they have to look the other way on."
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said aggressive enforcement cannot result in the arrest of every illegal immigrant, but it can serve as a powerful deterrent.
"Obviously, like anything else, you need to have some consistency," he said. "It may be a dent, but if it is done on a consistent basis, it's also a message."
Mehlman said the best approach is to station officials at the border to make quick determinations about whether the unaccompanied minors can demonstrate a "credible fear" of persecution and meet the eligibility requirements for asylum.
"What we should have been doing all along is screening people at the border and seeing if they have a 'credible fear,'" he said.
"It's definitely easier to catch people as they're coming across," he said.