SINCE DONALD TRUMP'S election, immigrant rights activists have been bracing themselves for mass round-ups of the estimated 11 million undocumented aliens currently in the country. As a candidate, after all, Trump cited Dwight Eisenhower's Operation Wetback--when over a million illegal Mexicans were ejected by border patrol teams in the first year alone--as his "model."
That hasn't happened. But less than a month after Trump's inauguration, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly radically revised the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) that Barack Obama put in place in the last few years of his term. As its name suggests, the program's goal was to focus on deporting hardened criminals--"bad hombres," in Trump's telling--but largely lay off everyone else. Kelly still wants to go after the violent offenders, but he has also given Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) free rein to target practically everyone.
Before, when ICE agents raided Latino homes or communities acting on specific intel about specific bad guys, they were supposed to limit their searches to those particular targets, not go on a general hunting expedition for other undocumented residents. No more. Now agents can take anyone without a valid visa into custody for detention and deportation.
This is why, though the multi-city raids conducted in Trump's first few weeks were planned under the Obama administration, they had a radically different impact than they otherwise would have. ICE agents picked up about 675 people; only a fifth (around 140) had any serious conviction on their record. About half were what are called "collaterals" in ICE lingo--folks with either no criminal conviction (in 177 cases) or convictions only for minor offenses such as traffic violations or driving under the influence (another 163).
Kelly has also expanded the scope of "expedited removals," in which immigrants are thrown out of the country without a court review or hearing. Under Obama, such removals were limited to people who'd been in America for only two weeks and were caught within 100 miles of the border. Now the policy is being applied to all undocumented folks anywhere who have been here for under two years.
Before Trump, when ICE agents carried out raids based on specific intel about specific bad guys, they were supposed to limit their searches to those targets. No more.
Cruelest of all is the administration's policy on so-called check-ins. These are people who have been convicted of...