Last week, immigrant communities and local law enforcement were thrown into chaos when news broke on Friday of immigration enforcement actions.
While US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) framed the operation as “routine enforcement actions,” word of the raids moved with lightning speed across the country and local organizations sprung into action. Ttwitter feeds were quickly overwhelmed by reports of raids — some confirmed, some not.
To be clear, the National Immigration Forum has always been in support of the detention and deportation of violent criminals, drug dealers and others who have been convicted of serious crimes. We have long advocated for the prioritization of valuable law enforcement resources on precisely these types of individuals who are a threat to the public.
But when ICE fails to provide transparency and leaves local officials in the dark, the administration is only creating chaos that undermines local law enforcement.
Which takes us back to Trump’s EO on Interior Enforcement of Immigration Laws. As the Forum had stated in our summary, “This order dramatically expands enforcement priorities to encompass not only those with convictions for “any criminal offense” (both serious and minor), but also individuals charged with any offenses…”
To put it more simply, in the eyes of an ICE agent, the undocumented violent criminal is the same priority as the undocumented landscaper.
So when an ICE official tells the Washington Post that operations in urban areas serve as, “a target-rich environment,” it is not surprising to see reports of collateral arrests of undocumented immigrants who were not an enforcement priority under the previous administration.
Which only increases the fear and confusion in communities.
What does this all mean?
Well, it means Trump’s Interior Enforcement EO is coursing through the system. Whether or not it reaches the full implementation potential of deporting up to 8 million undocumented immigrants as the LA Time’s Brian Bennett calculated, the EO has given ICE officers new power to spend the billions of dollars of resources they sit on. (The Dallas Morning News also has a good summary.)
What remains to be seen is how broader America reacts to the collateral consequences of the enforcement actions.
To a large degree, the refugee resettlement EO was called into question by the large numbers of native-born Americans who streamed to airports for spontaneous rallies.
In the case of the weekend’s enforcement actions, the “rule of law” complicates the picture for many Americans. An indication of how incredibly difficult the political environment has become.
What I would venture is that the debate has been partitioned into three segments.
At the most appealing end of the spectrum are DREAMers, highly-skilled immigrants and refugees. At the “just shouldn’t be here” end of the spectrum, are those who have committed violent crimes.
Left in the middle are millions of immigrants working and contributing, often without legal status.
The interior enforcement EO will have massive implications for this population. Between the expansion of enforcement resources to the elimination of prioritization, these are the immigrant families most vulnerable.
Yet, these are the immigrant families the majority of Americans have come to know.
The question is, will they be remembered?