In a three-day operation, which ended Monday, April 3rd, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, arrested 31 people in New York City, according to the agency’s most recent press release. The operation allegedly targeted “at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants, and immigration fugitives,” said the memo.
But the list of offenses is mostly comprised of minor infractions, such as driving under the influence, which would have been considered low-priority during the Obama administration. With these new sweeps, a total of almost 100 people have been arrested by ICE since February in New York City. Across the country, Ice has carried out dozens of deportation raids, making it hard to keep track of the exact amount of people detained.
Out of last week’s 31 arrestees, 28 are Latino, two are women. The operation was conducted in 10 different communities in the city, although most of the arrests were in Queens, the Bronx and Suffolk County, Long Island, one of the largest Central American communities in the United States.
Under Obama, prime targets for deportations were felons and terrorists but, under the new administration, almost any immigrant is subject to deportation. Anyone who is in the country illegally and is charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, is now an enforcement priority, according to Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly. This includes minor offenses, like driving without a license or crossing the border illegally.
Trump’s enforcement priorities are in full-force mode. According to the new press release, the operation targeted “individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who re-entered the country after being deported.” Re-entries are punishable with 20 years of jail.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said in a press conference Tuesday in Nogales, Arizona that he will devote more of the Justice Department’s resources to prosecuting immigration offenses and asked prosecutors for harsher penalties for those who re-enter the country.
“For those who continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: this is a new era, this is the Trump era,” Sessions said, with a smile. Shortly after, he asked for God’s blessing in achieving this task.
Sessions also said that the Department of Justice will place 50 new immigration judges this year and 75 next year. In a memo released Tuesday, Sessions asked federal prosecutors to make new immigration violations a priority, including bringing, aiding or housing people who are in the country without permission, or marrying to avoid immigration enforcement. To ensure that prosecutors comply with the new set of rules, Attorney General Sessions ordered each district to designate a coordinator, who will oversee prosecution of these violations and report statistics to the Department of Homeland Security.
Javier Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, a non-profit organization that advocates for immigrant rights, said the he was appalled by the attorney general’s statements. “Jeff Sessions’ anti-immigrant crusade continues. Today he has further signaled his intention to criminalize immigrants as much as he possibly can —in this case, by recruiting federal prosecutors into the Trump administration,” said Valdés in a memo.