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The Unlucky Undocumented: How Being in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time is Getting Immigrants Deported

People often ask us how life for immigrants has changed since Donald Trump became President.

We tell them that one major change is the fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement now routinely sweeps up immigrants during raids even when those immigrants were not the targets of the raids.

For these people, they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In these scenarios, ICE is raiding a house or work place to find a particular undocumented immigrant, but come into contact with additional, previously unknown undocumented immigrants.

And that is how they get caught.

As explained in this recent piece from Time magazine, “[u]nder the Trump Administration’s new enforcement priorities, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are instructed to detain and deport anyone who is in the country illegally, which means even so-called “non-targets” may end up in custody after a raid.”

As an example, Time cites a four-day operation in late July 23017 in which ICE arrested 650 people.  Of those, 457 were not targets of the raid.  This means that 70% of the immigrants were unlucky and got caught in the middle of a raid meant for someone else.

President Barack Obama had stated, defined priorities detailing who ICE should be looking for – namely criminals and people who had already been deported from the U.S. who were now back in America.  President Trump did away with those stated priorities.

ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett explained to Time that since the priorities have been eliminated, no classes or categories of removable undocumented immigrants are exempt from deportation.

“I think that our agency now feels that we can make arrests. They’re in compliance with federal law, there aren’t the restrictions,” she said. “It allows more flexibility for the officers to make decisions from their personal dealings with the person.”

As of now, based on raw statistical data, about 44% of those being deported under President Trump do not have criminal records.  This is a slight increase over the 42% of those deported during the Obama era.