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As Trump Eases Enforcement Priorities, Undocumented Immigrants Feel the Squeeze

If you want to understand what it feels like when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) comes to get an undocumented immigrant, read this article in Newsweek.

As a candidate for President, Donald Trump promised to round up the “bad hombres.”  His Attorney General has routinely called for stricter enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws.  John F. Kelly, the head of Homeland Security, has similarly promised that until Congress changes our immigration policies, his agency would enforce the laws on the books to the fullest extent possible.

Enter Jonatan Palacios, an undocumented man from Honduras.  Back in 2008, he was ordered deported by an immigration judge.  ICE recently found Mr. Palacios and took him in to immigration custody.

In an interview with Newsweek, Palacios said “I was so panicked.  I was trying to think through every little detail. Eventually, there was nothing else we could do and I just got out of the car, gave Lillie a hug and went with them.”

Immigration lawyers across the country explain that since Trump came into office, ICE has moved sharply away from the Obama-era policy of deporting criminals first.  Now, all undocumented immigrants are at risk.

Under Obama, agents were required to follow a specified list of priorities. Under Trump, ICE can investigate any undocumented immigrant they deem to be a “risk to public safety or national security” —a deliberately vague mandate, say immigration experts, that gives individuals in the agency a lot of leeway to make their own choices.  For better or worse.

This is contrary to candidate Trump’s promise to focus on “bad hombres.”

It should also spark a debate about what our nation’s immigration process should look like.

Do we really want to deport millions of people who have lived in the U.S. without proper authorization for years and years but who have committed no crimes?

Or, given the limited financial resources that ICE and other law enforcement agencies have, do we want to prioritize those who violate the laws?

In addition, the current approach under Donald Trump appears hostile, mean-spirited and destined to break up thousands of families.