The number of immigrants arrested or deported by federal agents in Michigan and Ohio soared over the past year as the administration of President Donald Trump toughened immigration enforcement, according to statistics reviewed by the Free Press.
The data confirm what local immigrants and advocates say they’ve been seeing as more immigrants are detained and deported by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), two agencies with the Department of Homeland Security.
The Detroit office of the federal agencies defended their enforcement while immigrants and advocates say the uptick has unnerved local communities.
* From fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2017, there was a 117% increase in Michigan and Ohio in the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants with no criminal records, increasing from 725 to 1,570. There was also a 23% increase in deportations of immigrants with criminal records and a 56% increase in deportations overall of immigrants, with 3,203 deported in fiscal year 2017, which was from Oct. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2017.
* There was a 126% increase in ICE arrests of immigrants with no criminal records, jumping from 487 in fiscal year 2016 to 1,101 in fiscal year 2017. There was a 32% spike in ICE arrests of immigrants with criminal records; overall, there was a 52% increase in arrests by ICE of immigrants in Michigan and Ohio, from 2,241 to 3,409.
* Arrests by the Detroit office of U.S. Border Patrol also jumped over the past year, increasing 49% from 716 arrests in 2016 to 1,070 in 2017. The Detroit office of Border Patrol oversees Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, while the Detroit office of ICE oversees the states of Michigan and Ohio. Border Patrol is the law enforcement arm of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“We’re definitely seeing a rise in people without criminal records being detained in all settings — people in their homes, people out on the streets, people who are driving,” said Ruby Robinson, the supervising attorney at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. “It’s really creating a lot of havoc. People are worried, scared to leave their home, take their kids to school, given this pretty substantial rise in the number of detentions.”
Khaalid Walls, spokesman for the Michigan and Ohio branches of ICE, told the Free Press in a statement that “ICE is focused on removing public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges.”
“Recent statistics reflect this continued focus,” Walls added. “In fiscal year 2017, 92% of all aliens arrested by ICE had criminal convictions, pending criminal charges, were an immigration fugitive, or were an illegal re-entrant.”
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent Douglas Harrison said in a statement: “In this dynamic, ever-changing world, the United States Border Patrol Detroit Sector uses a layered approach of personnel, technology and intelligence coupled with integrated partnerships with other agencies, and community engagement to protect the United States from all threats.”
Harrison added: “In 2017, Border Patrol agents routinely worked with local, state, federal, international and tribal partners, combining personnel, technology, and assets to stay ahead of criminal elements, which led to an increase of apprehensions from 2016. Going forward Detroit Sector Border Patrol will continue to leverage partnerships as a valuable force-multiplier to accomplish the collective mission of CBP and to reduce crime and improve border security in the protection of the United States of America.”
Over the past year, there have been several arrests or deportations of immigrants in Michigan that have drawn criticism from some advocates, such as the deportation in April of Mario Hernandez, a married Detroit father of three children who lived in the U.S. for 19 years with no criminal record. The arrests of Iraqi immigrants last year for possible deportation also sparked an outcry. And the deportation of Lincoln Park resident Jorge Garcia in January, reported first by the Free Press, drew national attention.
Jose Franco, who leads the immigrant advocacy group One Michigan, said he’s concerned that federal officials are profiling Latino areas of Michigan.
“We have seen an increased presence of Border Patrol cars like never before … in neighborhoods across southwest Detroit, Downriver and many other places that tend to have heavy Latino presence,” said Franco. His group is trying to help alert immigrants to the presence of immigration agents.
Juan Gonzalez, 24, a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immigrant, said many immigrants in Michigan are “scared, they’re nervous. They prefer to stay indoors … afraid of what can happen.”
David Sanchez, an immigrant rights organizer with Michigan United, said that “ICE is going after low-hanging fruit. People who have been checking in constantly and working on their citizenship status are the ones they are deporting. … They’re just deporting who they can get their hands on.”
“A lot of these people being deported are not criminals at all,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez cited for example the case of Garcia, who had been trying for years to obtain a path to citizenship. Brought to the U.S. at the age of 10, he’s too old to qualify for DACA and was deported in January to Mexico
The increase in Michigan in arrests of immigrants is echoed nationally. There was a 145% increase in ICE arrests of non-criminal immigrants across the U.S., compared with 126% in Michigan and Ohio.
In contrast to the spike in deportations in Michigan and Ohio, the number of deportations across the U.S. actually decreased by 5.9%, but that’s because there has been a marked decrease in crossings on the Southern border, near where a sizable number of deportations take place. The number of interior removals — meaning those who are already settled in the U.S. — increased.
For the first eight months of Trump’s presidency, there was a 37% increase in interior removals of immigrants, about 81,000.
ICE officials have said that anyone who is in the U.S. without authorization is now subject to deportation, not just those with criminal records. The administration of former President Barack Obama had made targeting those with criminal records a priority.
“The agency no longer exempts any category of removable aliens from potential enforcement and its efforts are focused on enforcing the law and securing the United States’ border,” says ICE.
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