President Obama issued guidelines instructing ICE and other immigration enforcement agencies to use their prosecutorial discretion to go after those who had committed violent or serious crimes, not those who were merely in the country illegally. Trump promised more of the same, but has done quite the opposite.
Officials at the agency commonly known as ICE praise Trump for putting teeth back into immigration enforcement, and they say their agency continues to prioritize national security threats and violent criminals, much as the Obama administration did.
But as ICE officers get wider latitude to determine whom they detain, the biggest jump in arrests has been of immigrants with no criminal convictions. The agency made 37,734 “noncriminal” arrests in the government’s 2017 fiscal year, more than twice the number in the previous year. The category includes suspects facing possible charges as well as those without criminal records…
Immigrants whose only crime was living in the country illegally were largely left alone during the latter years of the Obama administration. But that policy has been scrapped…In addition to arresting twice as many immigrants who have not been convicted of crimes, ICE also arrested 105,736 immigrants with criminal convictions, a slight increase. That figure includes people with serious or violent offenses as well as those with lesser convictions, such as driving without a license or entering the country illegally.
From the very beginning of his campaign — literally in the press conference announcing his candidacy — Trump has played the demagogue on this, explicitly tying illegal immigration to violent crime by falsely claiming that Mexico is “sending us” their murderers and rapists. This despite the fact that study after study shows that immigrants commit crimes of all kind, both violent and non-violent, at far lower rates than American citizens do. He has used a few anecdotal stories to push that false idea in order to justify his racist policies.
If he actually wanted to stop violent crime by immigrants, he would have left the Obama administration guidelines in place. Instead he “took the shackles off” ICE, which promptly started putting them on peaceful, productive people who have harmed no one and are contributing greatly to society. But that isn’t really what he wants at all.