Panel Paper: Immigration Enforcement in the First Year of the Trump Administration

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Marriott Balcony A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Randy Capps, Migration Policy Institute

Overview: Since taking office, President Trump’s administration has quickly put into place new policies guiding the arrest, detention, and deportation of immigrants living unlawfully in the United States. This presentation will share the findings of a year-long study focused on the Trump administration’s implementation of changes in immigration enforcement in the U.S. interior, with a focus on local law enforcement collaboration with federal immigration enforcement; new trends in immigration arrests and removal proceedings; community impacts; and community responses.

Methods: MPI researchers conducted 122 interviews on these topics across 15 local jurisdictions with ICE officers, local police chiefs and/or sheriffs, legal service providers, community-based organizations, state and local government officials, representatives from Mexican and Central American consulates, and community advocates. The researchers also analyzed previously unpublished ICE administrative data on arrests and immigration detainers for the first several months of the Trump administration.

Findings: ICE has increased arrests and interior deportations substantially, but they are still only at about half the levels during peak in FY 2010-11. The Trump administration’s interior enforcement regime relies heavily on laws, policies, programs, and procedures used previously during the late Bush and early Obama administrations. ICE officers and attorneys are now arresting immigrants with little criminal history or with strong community ties who would have been unlikely to be arrested in recent years. And, in a major departure from past administrations, ICE officials are rarely using prosecutorial discretion to release or stay the deportation of people once they are arrested. ICE has closed most avenues for appeal, so that lawyers, activists, and even members of Congress can rarely achieve the release from ICE custody of meritorious cases.

A large majority (69 percent) of ICE arrests originate in state and local prisons and jails, making ICE highly dependent on their cooperation. Yet, the relationship between the criminal justice system and federal immigration enforcement is being challenged like never before. Increasing numbers of states and localities are limiting cooperation with ICE, and ICE’s use of detainers to take custody of immigrant arrestees is being challenged in federal courts. This has led to a very uneven policy landscape, where unauthorized immigrants’ risk of arrest and removal varies widely by state and county.

All of this stepped-up enforcement is having major impacts on local communities, leading to increased feelings of fear, and reduced participation in daily community life. Service providers have noted declines in use of health services and public benefits by immigrant families, some but not all police departments have observed reduced crime reporting by Latino residents, and some commercial areas have seen large downticks in business as immigrants avoid unnecessary trips outside their homes. In response, community organizations, consulates, and legal service providers have stepped up their work to train immigrants about their rights, provide and fund access to immigration lawyers, and help families plan for the potential of deportation to their country of origin.