ICE raids have occurred for decades, but under the Trump administration, they may become more aggressive and frequent.
Rishi Oza, an attorney with Robert Brown Immigration Law, said one of the major shifts in raids under the new administration has been in priorities.
“The Obama administration put much more emphasis on trying to track down and remove folks that are in the country that had criminal convictions, that had fraud, that were recent immigration violators — (not) folks that had been in the country for a longer period of time that didn’t have any criminal issues,” he said.
Oza compared the Obama administration’s prosecutorial discretion policy to speeding. The government is less concerned with those who violate the speed limit by a few miles per hour than those who violate it by 20, Oza said. Under the same logic, an undocumented immigrant simply living in the country illegally was not penalized the same as one who had committed crimes.
Due to the extreme backlog in immigration courts, the system will have to adapt to an influx of people, he said.
“You’re going to create a bottleneck somewhere where the system isn’t going to be able to handle this new influx of individuals coming into the system unless we simply, severely remove somebody from the country without allowing them to go see an immigration judge,” Oza said. “It depends on — how much process is somebody due if they are in the country without proper authority.”
Jack Martin, a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said if an immigration official encounters an undocumented immigrant, their job is to start the deportation process. This policy wasn’t fully enforced under the Obama administration, he said.
“What is happening now is they’re returning to the implementation of the law that is the responsibility of the immigration officials,” Martin said.
He said concern is largely contained within the U.S. immigrant population.
“And those are people who are in the country illegally and know that they are violating the U.S. law and have been aware of the fact that they’re deportable,” he said.
Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst with the Cato Institute, said the recent number of deportations is not extraordinary, but they will continue to grow.
“(Trump) wants to triple the number of those law enforcement officers to go after illegal immigrants inside the United States for deportation,” he said. “And he wants to increase the number of customs and border protection agents by about 5,000.”
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly released two memorandums Tuesday on Trump’s executive orders — which called for strengthened border enforcement and collaboration with qualified state and local law enforcement in the deportation process.
ICE raids under Trump differ in the implementation of collateral arrests, Nowrasteh said. If ICE officers go into an area with a warrant to arrest a person, they can also arrest any unauthorized immigrant in the same location, even without a warrant, he said.
Oza said elected officials have the authority to pass immigration regulations such as these raids.
“I think it kind of reflects the importance of voting and deciding who is going to write the rules, because once the rules are written it’s kind of hard to demonize the folks (whose) jobs are to go out and enforce them,” Oza said. “Those guys are just doing their jobs.”