Florinda Lorenzo first came to the United States without proper immigration documentation some 14 years ago. A native of Guatemala, she has two children, two of which were born in the country and are therefore American citizens. Despite being undocumented, she is not in hiding, and in fact, checks in regularly with federal immigration agents in Baltimore regularly.
Lorenzo is one of the thousands of undocumented immigrants who simply report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a routine manner. They are allowed to stay in the country because previous administrations did not consider them a priority for deportation. Lorenzo was arrested in 2010 on charges that were later dropped, requiring her to make even more visits with an immigration official.
However, with the current administration’s hard-line stance on both illegal and legal immigration, people like Lorenzo have been forced to report with ICE much more frequently. Furthermore, what used to be harmless appointments have now become increasing hostile, with reports of immigrants being detained without warning during such visits.
Nick Katz, an attorney with immigrant rights group CASA de Maryland, notes, “We’ve heard stories of people being taken into custody. We know of at least one mother who was taken into custody out of a check-in.”
Such stories have also made Lorenzo’s visits rather nerve-wracking.
“It’s very painful and stressful for me,” she said.
Alonzo Pena, the deputy director of ICE during the Obama administration, points out that these unexpected detentions of immigrants with spotless records could lead to some serious challenges for immigration enforcement in the future.
“It’s going to send a bad message to others,” he said.
Pena speculates that immigrants might lose faith in the immigration system and will ultimately forego their regular check-ups, derailing ICE’s job of keeping track of these people.
The Obama administration took a more consideration approach in dealing with immigrants, placing those without any serious criminal records under low priority for deportation, given how they were not necessarily threats to American society.
The Trump administration, however, isn’t as lenient, with the president’s recent executive immigration orders living up to his campaign promises, among which include banning immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, stopping the refugee program, building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities.
Trump has also pushed for expanding the qualifications for deportation. An undocumented immigrant’s criminal record is no longer the primary factor for their removal; just being in the country illegally is enough to make someone a priority for deportation
Lorenzo nervously arrived at ICE’s Baltimore offices for her regular check-up. She came out much more positive after receiving the news she could stay at least until October, until which time she should return for her next check in.
The Trump administration’s aggressive stance on immigration is being felt across the country, especially in states with large immigrant communities like Texas. If you, or a loved one, are concerned about reports of arrests at ICE check-ins, don’t hesitate to talk to the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm for a full appraisal of your rights. Contact our offices to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.