Ramping up efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants, the Department of Homeland Security conducted raids across the country last week, apprehending approximately 680 people. According to DHS Secretary John Kelly, 75 percent of these arrests were for individuals with prior criminal convictions for offenses like, “homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI, and weapons charges.”
However, the DHS did not go into the specifics of how many of these convictions were for the most serious offenses, like homicide and sexual assault. Moreover, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offered detailed information in regional fact sheets, they did so only for 15 arrested immigrants. The 75 percent statistic tells us little of how many of these arrests were for serious crimes like assault and homicide, and how many were for minor offenses like DUI stops and immigration offenses.
Not surprisingly, the widespread raids generated swift condemnation by immigrant rights advocates concerned about the unusual scale and synchronization of the raids. ICE, however, describes the raids as “routine.”
Immigrant rights groups also noticed changes in the manner of ICE’s operations. For example, last week’s ICE raids included “collateral damage,” or individuals who were arrested—despite not being the original targets of enforcement officials—for being in the same place as the target immigrants and not having proper documentation.
Immigrants who were arrested this way are presumed to account for the 25 percent of people who were swept up despite not having any criminal record. Immigration activists are also concerned about how several people, who previously would not have been prioritized for removal, were rounded up in the raids.
“There were individuals that had, first, no criminal conviction — second, maybe a minor conviction — but third, some of them had a previous deportation order and that was what made them a priority,” said Joseph Villela, the Director of Policy at CHIRLA, an immigrant rights nonprofit.
It’s a shift in immigration policy that reflects President Trump’s executive order.
Villela pointed out that ICE officials were not transparent in their handling of the raids, failing to disclose the exact number of affected peoples. At one point, CHIRLA even received false information on the whereabouts of their clients, highlighting a clear gap of trust between advocacy groups and the immigration enforcement agency.
While President Trump has called the new round of raids as fulfilling campaign promises to crack down on “criminal” immigrants, ICE officials maintain that everything is just “business as usual,” and that many of last week’s operations had been planned many months in advance. Still, Trump praised Kelly and ICE, which is under the purview of the DHS, during a press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
If you or a loved one is concerned by this recent spate of immigrant arrests and want to know your rights, schedule a consultation with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to talk to immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.