More than 680 immigrants were detained last week under a series of raids implemented by the Trump administration.
According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly, these targeted enforcement operations took place in the Los Angeles, Chicago, San Antonio, Atlanta, and New York City areas.
Of the immigrants included in these raids, 75% were criminal offenders, according to the department. While the DHS did not release a full breakdown on exactly what crimes they committed, it’s a category that could include anything from felony charges like homicide to staying within the United States with an expired visa. Immigrants staying in the United States with expired visas has been a problem for numerous years. The U.S. immigration system is complex and bureaucratic; there are more than 20 different types of visas for temporary nonimmigrant workers alone, and some visa holders choose to stay even after their visa expiration date passes.
Overstaying a visa is a crime, but one that’s become routine in the past two decades.
In a press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Trump referenced his campaign pledge of removing illegal immigrants as his reasoning for authorizing the recent raids.
“We’re getting them out, and that’s what I said I would do,” Trump said in a press conference, referring to the criminals arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. “I’m just doing what I said I would do when we won by a very, very large electoral college vote.” The Huffington Post reported that Trump explained that he had promised during his campaign “to get the bad ones…and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
While many progressive Americans protested the ICE raids, statistics from the Obama administration show that these raids have become routine. In fact, many undocumented illegal immigrants were detained under the Obama administration as well. As recently as 2015, the Obama administration’s Cross Check Operation arrested more than 2,000 convicted criminals in a five-day raid across the nation.
Additionally, The Christian Science Monitor reports that similar targeted enforcement operations gathered 1,660 immigrants back in 2013, and 3,000 each in both 2011 and 2012.
These statistics show that immigration raids are nothing new to this country, but what is changing is the definition of criminal. President Obama’s sweeps focused solely on hardened criminals such as gang members, convicted criminal aliens, and those who repeatedly entered the country illegally. However, since the president has full authority to determine who is a priority for deportation, Trump could be switching the focus.
Rather than concentrating on individuals who pose an immediate threat to their community, President Trump is aiming his attention at any immigrant who has been charged with any offense. This could include minors, pregnant mothers, and the elderly, with the decision being up to the judgment of immigration officers.
This new expansive approach to immigration enforcement might be just beginning to ramp up. President Trump recently signed an executive order calling for the hiring of 10,000 additional ICE agents as soon as possible.