Local Limits on Immigration Enforcement Successfully Slow Deportation Machine

Immigration policies may be crafted on a national scale, under the purview of the federal government, but it is at the local level that immigrants live their lives. And it is at the local level that heavy handed immigration enforcement disrupts the lives of immigrants, as well as the lives of the native-born Americans with whom they work and reside.

This dynamic has been on full display since the inauguration of President Trump, whose administration has wasted little time in upending the immigration-enforcement priorities put in place by the Obama administration. As a report from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) describes, President Obama focused on apprehending criminals, recent border crossers, and anyone with a recent removal order, which targeted 10 percent or so of all unauthorized immigrants currently residing in the United States. President Trump, on the other hand, has vastly expanded the scope of immigration enforcement to such a degree that virtually anyone who is in the country and undocumented is now a priority for detention and deportation. He has, in effect, abandoned the concept of enforcement priorities entirely by rendering every potential deportee a priority.

Despite the ramping up of immigration-enforcement activity however, the numbers of arrests and deportations during the first eight months of the Trump administration were far below the levels of both the Bush presidency and the first few years of the Obama presidency. ICE arrested 110,568 people during Trump’s first eight months in office; as opposed to more than 300,000 per year in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 and 2011. The single greatest reason for this disparity, according to MPI, is that large numbers of state and local jurisdictions are not cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify and detain immigrants who do not have serious (if any) criminal records.

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