Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
August 01, 2017
WASHINGTON—Federal immigration enforcement agents arrested 650 people last week during an operation aimed at families and children who illegally crossed the border and had been ordered deported, officials said Tuesday.
Those arrested included 73 individuals who crossed the border as part of family units and 120 who entered as unaccompanied minors. Agents also arrested 457 others whom they “encountered” during the operation.
Under Trump administration policy, undocumented immigrants are not safe from deportation just because they are not high-priority targets like convicted criminals. Rather, anyone encountered during an operation can be arrested and processed for deportation.
One hundred-thirty of the 650 arrested had criminal convictions, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said. Under Obama -era rules, agents targeted people with serious criminal records and recent border crossers, while other undocumented immigrants were mostly safe from deportation. But under the Trump administration, the portion of people arrested who have criminal records has fallen significantly.
In a 2013 and 2014 surge, Central American families and children traveling alone arrived at the U.S. border and often turned themselves into border agents, thinking that would allow them to stay in the U.S. Many have remained here since due to backlogged immigration courts, but now some of those cases have been resolved and some of the migrants have been ordered removed from the U.S.
“Illegally entering the United States as a family unit or [unaccompanied minor] does not protect individuals from being subject to the immigration laws of this country,” ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan said in a statement. He discouraged others from making the dangerous trip to the U.S. and warned: “If you have no basis to remain in the United States, you will be identified, apprehended and returned to your home country.”
ICE said that unaccompanied children targeted had either reached age 18 or were at least 16 with criminal histories or suspected gang ties.
Immigrant advocates reacted with alarm, noting that most of those arrested were not the targets and arguing that children and families who fled violence in Central America should not be high priorities.
“The practice of targeting unaccompanied minors who fled violence in Central America is appalling. The fact that ICE is targeting the family members who took them in makes it even worse,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the advocacy group America’s Voice. “This kind of enforcement is designed to strike terror in the heart of immigrant communities.”
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