‘We’re Looking For You’: Spike in Arrests of Non-Criminals Fuels Trump Immigration Crackdown

By Alfonso Serrano Dec 06, 2017

The Trump administration’s efforts to overhaul U.S. immigration enforcement—by ramping up arrests of non-criminal immigrants with undocumented status—is producing stark results, according to numbers released on Tuesday (December 5) by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials detained 143,470 people during fiscal year 2017, which is a 25 percent increase over the previous year. The spike in arrests is partially fueled by Trump administration policies that extend its reach beyond “bad hombres and makes anyone in the country without citizenship or permanent residency vulnerable to detention and deportation.

ICE Director Thomas Homan told The Associated Press:

The president made it clear in his executive orders: There’s no population off the table. If you’re in this country illegally, we’re looking for you and we’re going to look to apprehend you.

Trump signed an executive order on January 25 that broadened ICE enforcement policies by no longer exempting any immigrant with undocumented status from deportation. The effectiveness of that policy shift was made clear on Tuesday. ICE figures show that non-criminal arrests nearly doubled in 2017 compared to last year—from 19,683 to 37,734—and represented 26.3 percent of all arrests.

Immigration advocates have decried indiscriminate ICE raids nationwide for striking fear into immigrant communities. They say President Donald Trump’s immigration policy is keeping immigrants from appearing at courthouses, seeking medical attention, sending their children to school and reporting domestic violence.

The DHS numbers released on Tuesday also show a historic plunge in Border Patrol arrests, a sign that Trump’s tough immigration rhetoric is deterring would-be border crossers. The Border Patrol arrested 310,531 people during fiscal year 2017. That is a 25 percent decrease from last year, and the lowest number of arrests in 45 years.

Ronald Vitielllo, the acting deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, credited Trump’s aggressive immigration policy with the drop in border arrests, according to the San Antonio Express-News:

I think it is about…people recognizing they’re not going to be successful, or they’ll be less successful based on the messages being sent, "We’re going to end catch and release." And then there’s a real determination all the way up the chain to enforce existing law. And then that led to people’s perspectives changing and fewer of them deciding to make the journey.