Deportation Details: How The Trump Administration Is Changing Immigration Enforcement

By Andrew Soboeiro

With the failure of early attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and signs of trouble for tax reform, many might assume that the Trump Administration is failing to put its policy proposals into action. But while the president may not be having much success in Congress, he has broad powers to shape US policy through the Executive branch. Nowhere is this more clear than on matters of immigration, where Trump has expanded deportation efforts dramatically even without passing new legislation.

How Trump is Changing Deportation

President Trump attracted attention last month when he announced he would be rescinding DACA, an executive order issued by President Obama that protected certain young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Yet as significant as this announcement was, it is arguably not the most important step the administration has taken on immigration, especially when compared with the following:

  • Expanding Expedited Removal: Federal agents have long had the power to begin expedited removals without court orders on certain immigrants who cannot prove they have been in the country for two years. But previously, they could only do this within 100 miles of the US-Mexico order. The Trump administration has expanded this power so that agents outside of the border area can expedite deportations as well.
  • Mass Raids: Since Trump took office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have conducted mass raidsagainst undocumented immigrants, rounding up hundreds at a time for deportation. ICE agents claim they are only apprehending immigrants who commit serious crimes. Yet many of those who have been arrested do not have criminal records, and leaked emails suggest that ICE leaders knew this before the raids.
  • Increased Incarcerations: The Trump administration has given local law enforcement agents the power to imprison immigrants suspected of committing serious crimes for longer periods of time. It has also opened the door to letting police deport or prosecute those who help children cross without visas into the US.

In addition to these steps, the Trump Administration may soon expand the family detention system used to house asylum seekers from Central America. Originally developed by the Bush Administration and restarted under President Obama, this system effectively imprisons mothers and their children who enter the country seeking asylum. Already, critics have accused this system of treating Central American refugees inhumanely. Under Trump, the size and autonomy of these detention centers will likely increase.

Barriers to Increased Deportation

Although the president has broad authority to change deportation policy, his power in this area is not without limits. From the beginning, deportation efforts have been hampered by sanctuary cities and counties, which have refused to cooperate with ICE and other Federal agents. In response, many state governments have tried to compel local governments to rescind their sanctuary policies, leading to ongoing court battles. Whatever the outcome of these disputes, the fact that some of the nation’s largest cities and counties refuse to participate in deportation efforts will likely limit the ability of Federal officials to identify and apprehend the undocumented.

Besides cities and counties, a number of state governments have recently adopted sanctuary policies. In particular, California passed a measure on October 5th that prevents jails from holding undocumented immigrants for extended periods of time and bars police from asking migrants about their legal status. Illinois passed a similar law back in August. State governments have far more power to resist Federal policies than cities and counties do. Combined with the fact that nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants, or a quarter of all such immigrants in the United States, live in Illinois and California, these measures should significantly limit the Trump Administration’s ability to increase deportations.

Despite these sanctuary policies, the president’s deportation efforts are having a significant impact across the country, especially in places like Texas where state governments are more cooperative. Whatever may come of the president’s legislative agenda, his actions will mark US immigration policy for years to come.

Vigoda Law offers updates on the latest developments in immigration to the United States, along with legal support for immigrants and temporary residents throughout the Triangle. For more information, call 919-307-7817 or visit our website today.